The Write Stuff – Monday, January 18 – Interview With Alan Dean Foster

You can imagine my delight when WordFire Press asked me to interview the legendary author, Alan Dean Foster, about his two new books, Star Wars – The Force Awakens and his long-awaited original novel Oshenerth. Equally pleasing, I found Mr. Foster both easy to work with and prompt in his responses.

Author and friendAlan Dean Foster’s work to date includes excursions into hard science-fiction, fantasy, horror, detective, western, historical, and contemporary fiction. He has also written numerous non-fiction articles on film, science, and scuba diving, as well as having produced the novel versions of many films, including such well-known productions as “Star Wars”, the first three “Alien” films, “Alien Nation”, and “The Chronicles of Riddick”. Other works include scripts for talking records, radio, computer games, and the story for the first “Star Trek” movie. His novel Shadowkeep was the first ever book adaptation of an original computer game. In addition to publication in English his work has been translated into more than fifty languages and has won awards in Spain and Russia. His novel Cyber Way won the Southwest Book Award for Fiction in 1990, the first work of science-fiction ever to do so. His sometimes humorous, occasionally poignant, but always entertaining short fiction has appeared in all the major SF magazines as well as in original anthologies and several “Best of the Year” compendiums. His published oeuvre includes more than 100 books.

The Force Awakens CoverI understand that you spoofed the audience at the Star Wars Celebration 2015, Del Rey panel, where it was announced you would be novelizing the movie. Will you give us a recap of what you did?

The notion was mutually developed by Del Rey and myself. We thought it would be fun for the audience if, instead of my simply appearing on the stage with the other panelists, they announced that they were still looking for someone to do the novelization. They then opened the floor to questions.   As was prearranged, I was called upon first, whereupon I (as a presumed stranger) offered to write the book, as I was “familiar with the characters and setting”. After some easy back and forth, they said, “Okay, you can do it”. Whereupon I was introduced. The audience loved it.

After Michael Arndt, the original screenwriter, left the project and J. J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan took over, the movie was put on a production fast track. Since it wasn’t until April 9 of 2015 that the above announcement took place and the book’s release had to coincide with the movie release, how much time were you actually given to complete the book?

Three months. I finished it in less than two. That’s just the way I write, whether it’s a novelization, a spinoff, or an original novel.

It’s not surprising, then, that they selected you. How satisfied are you with the result?

Quite, although as with any work, one always wishes for the opportunity to do another polish.

Was there any sort of collaborative process between yourself, Abrams and Kasdan, or were you just left on your own?

Making even a small film with no expectations is a 24/7 task. Making something on the nature of Star Wars is a 25/7 task. Directors, producers, writers, actors are completely focused on and absorbed in the making of the film. Even if they wished to participate in the development of what is at base an ancillary product, the time simply is not available. So yes, I was left on my on, albeit with input from my editor at Del Rey, Shelly Shapiro, and the Star Wars story group.

How much access to the screenplay and production materials were you given?

I had a full screenplay. I requested, and was provided, with as much in the way of production material as Lucasfilm/Disney was able and willing to provide. This consisted primarily of still shots of characters in costume, sets, and props.

Did The Walt Disney Company exercise any sort of supervisory role?

As will be the case with all Star Wars-related material in the future, the Star Wars story group vetted everything I submitted.

Because your “Pip and Flinx” series is as rife with both the intergalactic populace and dry humor one finds in the Star Wars saga, I thoroughly expected your distinct writing style would bleed over into Star Wars – The Force Awakens. I was pleasantly surprised, then, to find your book sounds exactly like George Lucas. Was it difficult to take on his voice?

When doing a novelization, I try to stay as true to the work of the screenwriters as possible. I’m doing a collaboration, an expansion…not a revision. Over the decades I’ve had to assume the “voices” of many other writers, most notably that of Eric Frank Russell in my expansion of his novella “Design for Great-Day”. It’s very flattering when readers feel that the expansion is a seamless development of the original writer(s) style.

While on one hand, a novel can take a reader inside a character’s head and provide background in ways a movie cannot, but on the other lacks a movie’s visual cues, there are inevitable differences between the way each tells the story that raise certain questions:

 In many instances, your book provides much more detail than the movie does, for example the exchange between Rey and Unkar Plutt concerning BB8 or, much later on, when Finn and Statura were talking about Starkiller Base, its weaknesses and capabilities. Are these your embellishments, or were they in the original screenplay but lost on the cutting room floor?

Those are mine, as are a fair number of similar bits of expansion in the novel. If you don’t provide such material, then you as a collaborator are not doing your job and the reader is not getting their money’s worth when they buy the book.

Where do the character or cultural backstories included in your book—that I suspect could not have been part of the screenplay, for example as pertain to Poe and Finn—come from?

I take what there is in the screenplay and develop the material further, attempting to envision what the characters themselves would say if they were present to fill in the blank spaces in their own backgrounds.

Oshenerth CoverI’d like to switch to something else that I suspect is much dearer to your heart. As long ago as 2009, I saw references on your website to a trilogy of your own creation titled Oshanurth, but never saw the work materialize. Now I learn that WordFire Press has published it with the revised spelling Oshenerth. Are you excited it’s finally in print and why has it taken so long?

Legacy publishers are less and less willing to take on material that doesn’t fit into pre-conceived (read: pre-sold) slots. I think the fact that Oshenerth takes place entirely underwater might have caused some hesitation on the part of assorted editors…though there was one who wanted to publish it immediately, only to have it rejected by the conservative owner of the company.

What was the inspiration behind the story?

I’ve been an avid diver for more than 30 years, fascinated by the ocean and its life. I always wanted to incorporate what I’ve seen and experienced underwater into a full novel. I’m especially fascinated by cephalopods.

Is there anything else you want readers to know about it?

One of the main characters, a cuttlefish, is based on an encounter I had with two of them off the coast of Blupblup Island, northern Papua New Guinea. Watching them communicate with color changes (white means danger in cuttlefish talk, by the way) as well as watching them watch me, I could not help but be taken by their evident intelligence.

Will you eventually release the full trilogy and, if so, when may we expect to see volumes two and three?

Oshenerth is a fully stand-alone work. As to continuing it, time and readership will tell.

As I calculate it, over your writing career, you’ve produced more than two books a year. What is your writing routine?

Rise around 7 am, read international and national news on the web, do research, write something, have lunch, go to gym or do the shopping, write some more. Write something every single day.

Just for fun: I understand you used to be quite the world traveller. While my own travels have provided many unique experiences, one of yours really caught my attention: You’ve actually cooked and eaten a piranha. I have to ask (1) how did that come about and (2) what did it taste like? Please don’t tell me it tasted like chicken.

You’re safe. Piranha broiled in a pan with a little butter, salt and pepper, and spices to seasoning, tastes just like fresh-water trout.

Yum! Thank you so much for agreeing to participate in my author interview series. Before I close with an excerpt from Oshenerth, I’d like to attempt what I call a Lightning Round, since it often produces unexpected insights. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m… talkative

The thing I’m most proud of is… getting a tooth from a live great white shark

The one thing I cannot do without is… iced tea

The one thing I would do over is… travel even more.

The thing that always makes me laugh, right down to my gut, is… Chuck Jones’ work.

And now, a quick taste of Alan Dean Foster’s original work, Oshenerth:

Chapter 1

As soon as he had the sleek, toothy slayer cornered, Chachel knew the shark was going to use magic. He was not worried. The heavy spear of pure white bone that he held had been shaped and carved by Fasalik Boneworker himself from the massive, scavenged lower jaw of a dead rorqual. You could slam it against rock and the shaft would not shatter. Furthermore, he had surprised the shark from below while it was busy patrolling the mirrorsky. Now it was trapped between the waterless void above and reef wall behind.

Cradling the spear under one arm and aiming it with the other, Chachel adjusted the strap that held the woven patch over the socket where his left eye had once resided and swam forward. The webbing on his left foot and the fin growing from the back of his calf fluttered in perfect synchrony with the artificial counterparts that occupied the space where his right leg was missing below the knee.

Above and in front of him, the blacktip’s eyes darted nervously from side to side as it searched for an escape route. If the shark made a dash for it, Chachel was ready with the spear. If it began to spout time-honored shark sortilege, the hunter’s well-honed vocabulary contained a clutch of stock counterwords. The gills of trapped shark and merson alike pulsed furiously, flushing water and extracting oxygen as they strained in expectation of the coming confrontation.

A powerful, yard-long tentacle slithered over Chachel’s taut left shoulder.

“Watch for a combination of teeth and talk. It may try to attack and invoke at the same time.”

Chachel nodded tersely. He knew that Glint was only trying to help. But it would have been better if the cuttlefish, who was as big as Chachel himself though not nearly as heavy, had stayed back out of the way. The last thing a hunter needed at killing time was to feel crowded.

Then the blacktip charged.

To anyone who has never seen a shark strike, it can be said that the great fish does not actually appear to move. One moment it is swimming lazily, and the next it is somewhere else, as if no water in-between has been transited. Some mersons called it wish-swimming: wish you are another place, and without a single kick or flick of a tail you find yourself therewith transported. After all, to catch something as fast as a fish, the shark must be faster still. Couple this intrinsic speed and ferocity with traditional shark magic, and surely an intended target has no chance to escape at all.

But Chachel was ready for the charge. Ready physically, because over the years he had pushed and worked his body to compensate for the loss of his left eye and right leg. Ready mentally, because he had laboriously learned the appropriate counterspells and protections. And ready emotionally, because he liked killing. He especially liked killing sharks because it was sharks who had taken his eye and the lower half of his right leg. It was sharks who had killed his father and mother in the same unanticipated pitched battle.

It was always sharks.

Visitors who would like to better acquaint themselves with Alan Dean Foster, or purchase his books, may do so via the following links:

email:                  adf@alandeanfoster.com

Oshenerth via Amazon:                    http://www.amazon.com/Oshenerth-Alan-Dean-Foster/dp/1614753806

Star Wars – The Force Awakens via Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Force-Awakens-Star-Wars/dp/1101965495

Website:                                             http://www.alandeanfoster.com/version2.0/frameset.htm

The Write Stuff – Monday, January 4 – Interview With David Butler

There is no shortage of interesting authors in the WordFire Press stable and this week’s guest is no exception. Just when I thought the interview was on a predictable track, David Butler threw something at me from out of left field and I realized he is as unusual as are his story lines.

Friendly DaveDavid Butler is a lawyer by background and works as a corporate trainer teaching business acumen to employees of large international companies. He writes science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, superhero, and even horror stories, for adults, young adults, and even middle readers. His large press debut will be The Kidnap Plot (Knopf, June 2016).

Will you tell us about your upcoming WordFire Press release?

WordFire Press is about to release its edition of City of the Saints, a steampunk adventure novel set in the American West in 1859. It’s like an episode of Wild Wild West amped up by Nikola Tesla, with secret agents Sam Clemens (in his amphibious steam-truck, the Jim Smiley), Edgar Allan Poe (armed with a canister of flesh-eating scarab beetles), and Captain Richard Francis Burton (for Her Majesty, of course) facing off over which side in the looming war between the States will control the Kingdom of Deseret’s airship technology and phlogiston guns.

City of the Saints is also available in audiobook.

What other novels have you written?

My big press debut will be The Kidnap Plot (Knopf, summer 2016). This is book one of The Extraordinary Journeys of Clockwork Charlie, which is an action-adventure steampunk fantasy tale about an unusual boy who sets out to rescue his kidnapped father and discovers astonishing things about the world… and about himself.

Other novels with WordFire Press include Rock Band Fights Evil, which is a serial about a damned rock and roll band. The lead singer is Satan’s son, fallen out with his dad over the fact that the son’s lover is in hell and dad won’t release her; the guitarist sold his soul to the devil and was tricked, gaining amazing prowess… with the tambourine; the drummer is an outcast fairy, and so forth. The band’s plan to recover what they’ve lost is to steal a fragment of Satan’s hoof and use it to blackmail Old Scratch… but they have to get to it before any of Satan’s rivals do. Rock Band #1 is Hellhound on My Trail.

Crecheling is the first in a science fiction trilogy about a society that initiates its youth into adulthood by making them commit murder. When Dyan learns this horrible truth, she refuses, and learns the price you pay for choosing not to bear the guilt your society wants to put on you. It’s got sort of a Firefly feel in that it’s a horses and monofilament weapons in the desert setting.

Do you have any other books in the works?

The thing I’m writing right now is Urbane, which is the sequel to Crecheling. Dyan, having broken with the System in which she was raised, now re-enters it by stealth to try to rescue the woman she has learned is her mother.

In addition, my agent (Deborah Warren of East/West Literary) is currently showing a black powder epic fantasy novel called Witchy Eye to editors. Later in the year, Deborah and have another middle reader series and a young adult realistic thriller to take out as well. So it’s exciting times around here.

So I would say! Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?

Loneliness. Delusions of grandeur. Depression. Navel-gazing. Despair. Disdain. A sense of entitlement. Believing your own marketing. Doubting your fundamental awesomeness. Obsessing over commas. Losing the ability to read for pleasure. Failing to take in enough spiritual sustenance, and becoming barren. Forgetting that the world is bigger than books. Forgetting that stories are the only guide for making our way through the world.

It’s a given there are very few, if any, overnight successes in the publishing industry. Will you tell us something about your journey?

This is a long and tangled tale, so I will try to abbreviate it.

The first thing I wrote was a trunk book. That’s how it goes. But with the second book I wrote, I picked up a big name agent. I was sure I had it made. But the agent went one round with editors and got no bites. When I sent him a second manuscript, he could only rarely make time to even look at it, and never sent it out. Almost one year after offering to represent me, he dumped me, copying his lawyer on the e-mail.

In the meantime, I had co-written things with my wife, Emily. Shortly thereafter, she picked up an agent. She’s still represented by him—Steven Chudney. The first thing of ours he sent out went several rounds and didn’t get picked up. The second thing was a re-shaped version of the manuscript that had originally garnered me representation… and it sold!

So hurray, we were going to be published! Except that the publisher in question was Egmont. And after Emily went through the entire editing process, Egmont pulled the plug on its US operations, and the book was orphaned. Both those co-written books (and the series planned to follow them) are with Steven, being seen by editors today, and Emily continues to work on other projects.

In the meantime, I had starting self-publishing. This got me into conventions and onto panels, and that was a good thing. And then in early 2014, I got picked up by another agent—Deborah. She sent The Kidnap Plot to one editor on a sneak preview basis, Michelle Frey at Knopf, and Michelle went for it.

I’m going to unveil the cover art to The Kidnap Plot soon, via my mailing list. It’s by a very talented guy named Kenard Pak. Readers can sign up for my mailing list at: http://davidjohnbutler.com/mailinglist/

What is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing a novel?

Setting it aside, writing the next one.

I know that one. Tell us something about your “other” job.

I’m trained as a lawyer, but I don’t currently practice. By day, I teach business acumen to employees of large companies.

Describe a typical day.

My typical day really varies. If I am not on the road, I start by hitting the gym and then I go into the office. If possible, I try to write in the evenings, or at lunch. If I’m on the road, then I’ll write in airports, or on the plane (if I’m lucky enough to get upgraded—frankly, airlines should be ashamed of the ridiculous cattle car nature of their main cabins, in which it is impossible to get any reasonable amount of work done). I often write in hotels, either having arrived there from the airport, or after a day of teaching client employees the different between an income statement and a statement of cash flows.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

I’m married, with three kids (the oldest is in junior high) and four chickens. We play lots of board games around here, and make music—piano, guitar, banjo, mandolin, and lots of odd little instruments. Our house is a rambling old affair on the side of a mountain, with snakes under the steps and a severed head hanging in the tree.

How do you pick yourself up in the face of adversity?

You have to fill yourself with substance. You have to understand who you are and what you’re doing and why and know that there will be obstacles in your path. That won’t make picking yourself up easier, but it will make it possible. Your most basic skill as a human being is knowing how to stand back up again.

What has been your greatest success in life?

My kids. They’re creative, clever, hard-working, and good-hearted, without thinking much about the fact that they are those things.

Nicely put. Before I let our visitors sample City of Saints just below, I’d like to try a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m a … Slow learner.

The one thing I cannot do without is: A good book to read.

The one thing I would change about my life: I would have started owning it earlier.

My biggest peeve is: Politics in social media.

David, I’d like to thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. At this point, I’d like to share an excerpt from your work.

From City of Saints:

CoverOnly300DPI“And magic!” he cried and, reaching into his canister, he pulled out a handful of the brass scarabs and scattered them across the laps of Burton, Fearnley-Standish, and their female companion.

“Aagh!” shrieked Fearnley-Standish, and would have jumped from his seat if Burton hadn’t restrained him with a hand on his arm.

“Arjuna’s bow, man, they won’t eat you!” the explorer snorted.

Then Poe saw their female companion’s face and froze. She was short and dark, all straight lines and grace, and though he would have recognized her through any disguise, she wore none.

It was Roxie.

Robert, you didn’t mention … but then, of course …

She smiled at him, the polite and slightly flirtatious smile of a woman who is casually attached to another man but conceals within her a voracious, insatiable wolf. She didn’t recognize him, obviously, but then it had been years, and Poe was proud of the verisimilitude of his false nose. Within his breast a desire to seize her in his arms, sweep her to his chest and devour her mouth with his warred against an equally strong urge to pull his pistol from inside his jacket and blow out her vicious, wicked, conniving brains.

“Well, man!” Burton snapped. “Get on with it!”

He felt stunned, his vision out of focus. He floated, lost. Then, in the sea of passengers’ faces under flapping parasols, he saw the physiognomy of his accomplice, the haggard dwarf Jedediah Coltrane. Coltrane was mouthing something to Poe, a nervous look on his face; Poe’s professionalism reasserted itself and he tore his eyes away from Roxie’s.

Stepping back, he raised both hands about his head, one of them holding the cylinder by its lid, and cried out in a loud voice, to be sure that the entire deck could hear him. “Behold the incantations of Thoth! Behold the power of Hermes Thrice-Greatest! Behold the might of the Egyptian priests, able to reach through the curtain of death itself and command the obedience of the inanimate and the damned!”

When he was sure they were all watching him, he waved his empty hand in a great circular flourish over the scarabs, carefully thumbing the recall button inside the canister’s lid. “Nebenkaure, panjandrum, Isis kai Osiris!” he shouted.

The clocksprung beetles sprang instantly to life. With a great chittering and clacking, each metal bug rolled upright, oriented itself, and then began its trek. From the laps and boots of Roxie and the Englishmen, from the bench they sat on and the floor beneath them, the brass beetles swarmed in a great mass towards Poe.

He raised his hands, stood still, and laughed as diabolically and mysteriously as he could as the bugs climbed his clothing, laughed when he felt the first brass legs touch the bare skin of his neck, laughed with his whole chest and belly as the scarabs detoured around his head and crawled up his left arm, kept laughing as they swarmed ticklishly about his fist and dropped one by one into their native canister, and then, for effect, stopped laughing at the exact moment in which he slammed the canister shut.

The spectators went wild.

“That wasn’t Egyptian,” Burton said sourly, but the passengers all about him applauded, and a few whistled or whooped in excitement.

Coltrane clapped along with the crowd, shooting shrewd appraising looks at the people around him. Sizing up the marks, Poe thought. The man had the ingrained instincts of an inveterate carny. The little boy with the loop of wire stood stiff as a statue, his eyes so wide they threatened to swallow his face.

“They’re scarab beetles, Dick,” Fearnley-Standish pointed out.

“I meant the words,” the darker man growled. “Pure higgledy-piggledy. Nonsense. Arrant balderdash.”

“My name is Doctor Jamison Archibald!” Poe announced. “Tonight, at seven o’clock by the Captain’s watch, in the stateroom, for the very reasonable sum of two copper pennies, any passenger may see exhibited and explained these and other marvels, visual and auditory. See the uncanny hypnotic hypocephalus in action, stealing the souls of men! Witness the muscular terror of the dire Seth-Beast!”

“Will children be admitted free of charge?” inquired a plain-faced, reedy-voiced, gray-wrapped matron in a blue prairie bonnet, clutching under her bony wings a trio of similarly undernourished-looking brats.

“My dear madam,” Poe stage-whispered, meeting her eyes over the rims of his spectacles, “the things I have to display are dark and terrifying apparitions; the stuff of nightmares. Children will not be admitted at all.”

Those of you who’d like to know more about David Butler can connect with him at the following links:

Website:         http://davidjohnbutler.com

Twitter:          @davidjohnbutler

Facebook:      http://facebook.com/dave.butler.16

City of Saints is scheduled to be released in paperback on January 15, 2016. Once that happens, you will be able to find book buy links at http://wordfirepress.com

You may purchase it immediately as an ebook at http://amzn.to/1TQwqrf

The Write Stuff – Monday, December 21 – Interview With Kevin J. Anderson

Few sci-fi or fantasy authors are as legendary or prolific, or have spent more time paying their success forward to up-and-comers than this week’s guest, Kevin J. Anderson. No other I am aware of owns his own publishing house, and I think you’ll agree, if anyone was ever born to write, it was this man.

KJA photoKevin started writing at age eight. A magazine accepted one of his manuscripts two years after he had entered high school and he received the first monitory payment for his writing in his high school senior year and sold his first novel, Resurrection, Inc., at age 25. In addition to creating his own Saga of Seven Suns series, his Nebula Award nominated Assemblers of Infinity and dozens of others, he has co-authored numerous works that include Star Wars, X-Files and Dune spin-offs. Not content with those accomplishments, he has written several comic books and authored novels delving into the histories of such super heroes as Batman and Superman. It can be said that Kevin has expanded and enriched the fabric of the genre at large. To date, fifty-two of his works have become best-sellers and there are more on the horizon.

Kevin, you are noted for writing complex epic tales told from multiple viewpoints. Do you have any other such books in progress, especially your own original works?

Oh, I always do! Right now I am finishing up my last edit on Navigators Of Dune with Brian Herbert, our grand finale in the Schools of Dune trilogy, and then I will turn immediately into polishing up Eternity’s Mind, the last book in the Saga of Shadows trilogy (which is set in my popular original Seven Suns universe). It is full of characters and storylines and much mayhem—like a Game of Thrones with planets. Obviously, dealing with such a big story and large cast of characters is exhausting. Wrapping up both of these big trilogies at once is making my brain tired!

An intriguing device you employ is the insertion of real world cultural and musical references into some of your tales. The Saga of Seven Suns’ Ross Tamblyn is a tad too similar to cinema’s Russ Tamblyn to be coincidental, as is his Blue Sky Mine to Midnight Oil’s identically titled song—I give a nod and a wink to Chairman Wenceslaus. At first, I thought you were just having fun with your readers. Then, when I found Clockwork Angels rife with Neil Peart’s lyrics and subsequently learned it evolved as a collaboration between the two of you, I wondered if there wasn’t something more that led you to use them. Would you care to expand on this?

Honestly, Ross Tamblyn is just a coincidence. I had developed the whole Tamblyn clan, and didn’t much think of the resonance. The Blue Sky Mine, though—you nailed it, and I didn’t think anyone would remember! Music is quite an influence in my work however, most predominantly the music of Rush, with lyrics by Neil Peart. My very first novel, Resurrection, Inc., is entirely based on my own vision of the Rush album “Grace Under Pressure” and because of that I got to know Neil quite well personally. We have collaborated together and inspired each other in small ways, but we really pulled out all the stops when Neil asked me to novelize their new concept album, Clockwork Angels, a novel that became a New York Times bestseller and a multiple award winner. We liked the universe so much, we adapted that story to a graphic novel and then just branched out to a new companion novel, Clockwork Lives, which I personally think is the best book I’ve ever done.

IMG_3001You do a lot of your writing and plotting while hiking. Is this a useful method for writers?

 

When I’m out in the big spectacular Colorado IMG_3018landscape, it frees my mind to think up big ideas. If I go far enough out, I can walk for hours without seeing anybody but the characters in my head. I am a storyteller, and I dictate as I walk… and when I can walk in a landscape like that, there’s no better office in the world.

 

ClockworkAngels_Ebook.pdfI have to congratulate you on Clockwork Angels’ hardback edition, from its striking cover and the beautiful end papers, to the wonderful illustrations and the subtle use of color printing to enhance the appearance of its pages. How pleased are you with the final result and how did it come about?

 

I couldn’t be more pleased, and Clockwork Lives is just as striking a book with its embossed leatherette cover, marbled endpapers, color printing, line art illustrations by Nick Robles, who did all the artwork for our graphic novel. I had shopped the original Clockwork Angels around to my primary publishers in the US, but even though I’ve had over 50 bestsellers and Rush is one of the biggest-selling music groups in history, they just didn’t get how ClockworkLivesone could do a novel connected to an album. But the Canadian publisher ECW (who had released Neil Peart’s non-fiction books) was very enthusiastic, and they really showed off what they could do. Even though Clockwork Angels became a bestseller, Neil and I never had a second thought about handing them Clockwork Lives, and they certainly outdid themselves. I have also edited an original anthology, with John McFetridge, for ECW titled 2113 and is filled with stories by major authors, all of them inspired by Rush songs. That one comes out in April.

On a more personal note, a mutual friend tells me you’re a big fan of IPA. Care to talk about this particular passion?

Over the past two decades, high-quality microbrew beer has become just as popular as good coffee in the US. I shudder to think of the swill we used to drink (both beer and coffee!) I am a big fan of both. My tastes in the microbrew beer have really focused in on the extra-hoppy India Pale Ales (named because in the British Empire, the kegs of ale being sent around Africa to India had to use a lot of hops as a preservative so the beer would remain good throughout the voyage). The other advantage of drinking an IPA is that it’s so bitter most other people don’t like it, so that way people don’t raid my stash in the fridge!

 

 

Hah! I love IPA and I like that strategy enough I may have to adopt it. Our friend also told me you wrote a book telling Mormons how to write about beer.

Not actually a book, just a talk to other writers. I viewed it as an alien contact scenario! While I’m not a Mormon, I have a LOT of LDS writing students, have lectured at BYU and many Utah conferences as well as being a writer-in-residence for a Utah writing retreat, where I was the token non-Mormon. I made the point that writers need to know about various things, to put the information into their creative repertoire. For instance, I told them, how many of you are experts in opera, or classic jazz? Nobody raised their hand (heck, I don’t know anything about opera or jazz), but they all agreed that it might be useful information to write a character who likes opera or jazz. Same thing, I explained some basics about wine and beer to people who had absolutely no experience in social drinking… not to convince them to try it, just so they would have a better understanding. I compared different kinds of beer to bread (Coors Light = Wonder Bread, Guinness stout = dark Russian rye, my hoppy IPAs like sourdough or a tangy caraway rye…) They seemed to find it useful. Like I said, writers should know about other cultures… and I have learned a lot about theirs, too!

 You promote aspiring writers, especially as centered around NaNoWriMo and have compiled several books to help them succeed. Please tell us about your work with Storybundle.com.

I’ve always believed in paying it forward. I had some very major mentors when I was a new writer (namely, Dean Koontz and Terry Brooks) and I want to do the same. I have given countless workshops at science fiction conventions over the past 20 years, and each year my wife and I run the high-level Superstars Writing Seminars, which focuses on the business of writing.

As an offshoot of my workshops and lectures, I have written several books on writing and published them through my own house, WordFire Press. (Yes, I’m a publisher, too.) Each year for NaNoWriMo, I have worked with storybundle.com to but together a “bundle” of writing books, The Nanowrimo Writing Tools bundle—this year, we have 25 titles on all aspects of writing craft, careers, and business, for a name-your-own-price (minimum bid of $25 for all 25 books). Storybundle is an innovative way of distributing books, mostly by indie authors—a grab bag of eBook titles for all platforms. I have a good working relationship with storybundle and have done many bundles for them. In fact, right now I have a Holiday Fantasy bundle running as well as a really big “bundle of trilogies” so you get as much reading material as your eyeballs can handle, for a very low minimum bid. All of these bundles go down at the end of the year, though, so if anybody’s interested they should check out http://storybundle.com to see what’s available.

Life as a publisher and life as an author offer differing rewards and place different demands on one’s life. A glance at your published works and accompanying release dates shows a not unexpected decline in frequency of your own books since you launched WordFire Press. How do you strike a balance between the two and keep one from overwhelming the other? For that matter, how are you able to maintain a personal life?

11813523_10153000233128244_5094300587170526367_nWhat’s a personal life? Actually, the key to that question is that my wife and I are both writers and we are the co-publishers of WordFire Press…so our LIVES are wrapped up in what we do. We live and breathe writing and publishing, so that’s pretty much all we do. It’s a little more nuts than you think, though, because the frequency of my book releases hasn’t actually declined—I had five books out in 2015, five books out in 2014, and I should do the same for 2016. At this very moment, I am doing Navigators of Dune and Eternity’s Mind simultaneously, both of them 600+ page manuscripts. I wish I could slow down a little!

WordFire Press began by republishing high-demand out-of-print books, including your own extensive backlist. Over the years it has expanded its directions by featuring new works by bestsellers and award winners such as Alan Dean Foster, Jody Lynn Nye, Todd McCaffrey, Frank Herbert, John A. Pitts, and Mike Resnick. Now, it also boasts a stable of rising new talent. How have you discovered these up-and-comers?

I’ve done a lot of work in the field with many other authors over the years, and I have a pretty good reputation. Even big-time authors are hungry for the experience that they can be involved directly in the process as a partner. Our newer authors often come from the ranks of people I’ve worked with, writing students, award-winners from the Writers of the Future, people who have the spark that makes me think they can hit the big time.

Is WFP looking toward any new publishing directions you’re free to discuss?

Publishing is an old business with a lot of established traditions, but a lot of those have gone out the window with the warp-speed changes in technology. From our inception, WordFire threw out the “it’s always been done this way” model and looked at it from a fresh, objective eye. Maybe we can try this, or this, or this. Sometimes it doesn’t work, other times it blows us away. Distributing our books through Storybundle or Humble Bundle generates a lot of sales for the included authors, but that’s not something traditional publishers even consider. We feature our authors and autograph and sell a lot of physical books directly to fans at pop-culture shows, which is also something most big publishers don’t do. At present, though, we are growing and expanding so quickly that my main objective is to keep all the gears turning smoothly.

WFP maintains an active presence at major cons across the country each year, not only selling its books, but also providing readers with an opportunity to meet many of its authors. Would you care to enumerate some of the venues where readers can connect in 2016?

These big comic and pop-culture shows are huge venues, and they feature media celebrities for fans to meet. We present our authors in the same way: As actual celebrities for fans to meet. And for an average fan and reader, even someone with one or two books published seems like a celebrity. A very abbreviated list of places we’ll be in the coming year includes Miami Supercon, Planet Comic Con (Kansas City), Pensacon (Pensacola), Emerald City Comic Con, Dallas Comic Con, DragonCon, Salt Lake FanEx, IndianaCon, C2E2 (Chicago), Phoenix Comic Con, Denver Comic Con, New York Comic Con, and enough others to make my head spin.

Thank you, Kevin, for agreeing to participate. I shall remain ever grateful. I always conclude my interviews with what I call a Lightning Round, since the responses often yield unexpected insights. In as few words as possible, please complete the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m… The most-fun workaholic he’s ever seen.

The thing I’m most proud of is… My own novels—and the published novels of my writing students, so I must have been teaching them right.

The one thing I cannot do without is… My imagination

The one thing I would do over is… Hmm, that’s the good thing about writing: you can always edit your past drafts as much as you like.

The thing that always makes me laugh, right down to my gut, is… My demanding cats, whose cheerful need for attention trumps any thought of deadlines

Visitors can follow Kevin at the following social links:

 Twitter:                      https://twitter.com/TheKJA

Blog:                           http://kjablog.com

Facebook:                  https://www.facebook.com/KJAauthor/

Some Book Buy links are as follows:

Amazon:                    http://www.amazon.com/Kevin-J.-Anderson/e/B000AQ0072

WordFire Press:        http://wordfirepress.com/our-books/

The Write Stuff – Monday, December 7 – Interview With Quincy J. Allen

Quincy J. Allen catches your eye as quickly as his writing catches your inner ear. “I have a mohawk. Your argument is invalid,” says his website. I encountered him at Sasquan in Spokane, Washington last August where he was working the WordFire Press booth around the corner from mine. He’s an imposing man, but genial from the outset and I’m sorry I was as busy as I was or I might have taken time to sample his work while I was there. Fortunately, WFP asked me to feature him. Now that I’ve read some 1000-Headshot1of his stuff—as you will have the opportunity to do at the bottom of this page—I intend to read more.

He’s a cross-genre author, has been published in multiple anthologies, magazines, and one omnibus. His first novel Chemical Burn was a finalist in the RMFW Colorado Gold Contest. He made his first pro-sale in 2014 with the story “Jimmy Krinklepot and the White Rebs of Hayberry,” included in WordFire’s A Fantastic Holiday Season: The Gift of Stories. He’s written for the Internet show RadioSteam, and his first short story collection Out Through the Attic, came out in 2014 from 7DS Books. His latest novel Blood Ties, Book 1 in The Blood War Chronicles, was made available in print on November 1st, 2015, with Book 2 due out early in 2016.

He works as a Warehouse and Booth Manager by day, does book design and eBook conversions by night, and lives in a cozy house in Colorado that he considers his very own sanctuary—think Bat Cave, but with fewer flying mammals and more sunlight.

I asked him to give us the gist of Blood Ties and he describes it this way:

Clockwork Gunslingers • Chinese Tongs • An Epic Quest

THE BLOOD WAR CHRONICLES When assassins jump half-clockwork gunslinger Jake Lasater, he knows the Chinese Tong wants to finally settle an old score. Unfortunately, Jake has no idea the Tong is just the first milepost on the road toward a destiny he refuses to believe in. With his riding partner Cole McJunkins in tow and his ward Skeeter secretly hidden away, Jake squares off against a deadly clockwork mercenary from his past and a troop of crazed European soldiers who want him dead. Add an insane Emperor with knowledge of Jake’s past and a mysterious noblewoman who desperately needs his help—and Jake is faced with a whole mess of trouble, with no end in sight. Blood Ties launches an epic saga that spans worlds and threatens the human race itself.

Please give us an idea of the book’s history and its future.

Blood Ties has been about 6 years in the making, from initial short story to committing to and writing the first book of six in the series. As I’ve written elsewhere, it starts off as Old West steampunk, but it turns sideways pretty quickly, and by the end, it’ll be full-on epic fantasy with a clockwork gunslinger at the helm.

Who or what was the inspiration behind it?

Well, that’s a longer answer. The Reader’s Digest version is that this was a lifetime in the making, starting with westerns on Saturday morning television, and Rooster Cogburn, and James West, and Josey Wales. It grew with readings of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. With the idea for a protagonist congealing in the aftermath of a MileHi Con in 2009 where I met the local steampunk organization.

What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how did you overcome it?

Writing the first one was fairly straight-forward, and that got split into books one and two. The problem has been the crazy-busy convention season, driving the truck for WordFire Press doing the setup at convention as the booth manager this past year left little time for writing. That continues to be the greatest challenge I face from a writing productivity perspective.

What other novels have you written?

Chemical Burn was my first published novel, and the sequel to Blood Ties, entitled Blood Curse, is slated to be out in the spring of 2016. I have three other novels that are partially written. One is written in the same world as the Blood War Chronicles and follow a young Jesuit priest excommunicated for the murder of a bishop. He becomes a demon hunting witch. The second is about a young girl who discovers she has mental abilities that are taboo in her culture, and has to rely upon them in order to rescue her father from airship pirates. As the story progresses, she discovers a secret that will shatter the strictly theological society she was raised in and set the stage for returning to the stars. The third is military science fiction, combining powered armor and psionics. At the help is a tactical genius bent on avenging the murder of his parents. He then discovers ancient technology that will allow him to fight the society that created his parents killers.

So, I have a lot on my plate.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Sporadic these days. I have the WFP book design stuff I do, Inventory Management for WFP, booth management, book design for my own clients, management for a small author marketing company with my girlfriend as partner and graphic artist, and a pretty strong Destiny video game addiction. It’s hard to balance that all.

Tell us about your path to publication.

That’s a long story tool but the framework is a straight line. It started with getting laid off from the IT industry. I then discovered I could produce anthologies myself, moved to writing and publishing my first novel, and then working the convention circuit here in Denver. I met the right people and it gets complicated from there.

Life is complicated, but sometimes adversity leads to opportunity. It seems to have done so in your case. How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I continue to improve my craft. I was just talking with a few folks recently about the differences in prose between Chemical Burn and Blood Ties. When I’m all growed up, I hope to be a really good writer.

Is there anything you want to make sure potential readers know?

Only that Blood Ties is worth taking a gamble on. I’m a newer author, but this series will be one hell of a ride by the time it’s finished. And if you do read it, all I ask is that you leave one review on Amazon and then tell your friends. Readers are my greatest allies, and without you I won’t be able to get where I need to go.

I’m sure the excerpt you’ve provided is compelling enough to convince our visitors to purchase a copy.

Now that we’ve talked about you, the writer, I’d like to provide a glimpse of another side of Quincy J. Allen. Will you describe a typical day?

Coffee (a must). Go through my to do list and prioritize what’s left on it, including working for WFP, working for my own clients, trying to keep up with social media, market my books as much as I can, and get in a few runs on Destiny.

 Would you care to share something about your home life?

Like a lot of authors, I have a very supportive partner, Kathryn, who is also a working partner. We’ve got a rather pleasant and reclusive little existence in Denver, Colorado, and we’re working towards snowbirding between this house and something in either Costa Rica or Roatan… tropical and humid with scuba diving and deep sea fishing.

Roatan sounds appealing, especially this time of year. That said, what motivates or inspires you?

Music. Hell, I make my own soundtracks (sort of) for my books, can point to specific scenes in novels that were inspired by certain songs, and use music to keep going throughout the day. You can check out my playlists at:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6cN7Zoi63khjYtdemFMx9Q/playlists

What else?

That’s an amalgam. I guess I’d have to say movies and music and Robert Heinlein and Julian May and Stephen Brust and Zelazny and Clarke and Laumer. My brother is in there, and certain characters I’ve been exposed to. I think I also have to say Firefly. That’s a complex question, and the answer is all over the place.

Before I share some of your work, let’s try a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

 My best friend would tell you I’m a … dick.

The one thing I cannot do without is: music.

The one thing I would change about my life: being able to write full-time.

My biggest peeve is: willful stupidity.

The thing I’m most satisfied with is: my home.

Thanks Quincy for taking time out of your difficult schedule for this interview. Since I’ve begun interfacing with WFP, I had several glimpses just how jam-packed that schedule can be.

For those visitors who’ve hung around to sample Quincy’s writing, here is a sample from Blood Ties, Book 1 in The Blood War Chronicles. At the end, you’ll find Quincy’s social links as well as links to purchase his books.

1600Cover The trooper’s chaingun spun up, but Jake picked up the whine of a second chaingun somewhere closer to the bridge. From behind a stack of crates at the water’s edge, Cole stepped into view, chaingun in hand.

“Jake!” Cole screamed.

Jake was already diving away from Ghiss as he watched the chaos unfold. Most of Szilágyi’s men had heard the second chaingun and, like amateurs, were turning to see what it was without bringing their guns around. Szilágyi had obviously heard the sound of the second chaingun, because he dove to the side. He seemed to be considerably better at math than his own man with the chaingun, or maybe the man didn’t hear Cole’s weapon over his own. He merely stood there like a Greek statue with a mean grin splitting his face.

A flash of gunfire erupted from the man’s weapon, and although Ghiss was already moving, Jake saw sparks fly from those skeletal limbs as several rounds hit home. That’s when Cole’s burst took Szilágyi’s man in the back and turned the poor bastard’s chest into a crimson blossom. The chaingun flew from his arms as he went down. Cole swept left and right with the chaingun, chewing up the pistol-wielding assassins. Several managed to turn their pistols and get shots off, but they missed Cole.

Cole, however, didn’t miss them, and they dropped in heaps with chunks torn out of their bodies.

That’s when Jake spotted shadows moving towards them from further up along the channel near the second bridge.

“Cole!” Jake shouted. “On your left!” Jake heard a clank from his right and turned to see the nearest assault unit cutting into the upper cockpit of Qi’s digger. A horrible scream filled the night. Blood poured out and ran down the top of the digger. Then the claw lifted and pressed into the plate covering of Qi’s cockpit.

Jake heard Cole’s chaingun cook off again in short bursts, followed by an occasional scream from the men approaching. Jake’s eyes were riveted on the digger.

The hydraulics of the massive claw screamed as they bit slowly through the black cockpit cover. “Qi!” Jake shouted. He yanked his pistols and unloaded them at the Confederate unit, the rounds sparking harmlessly off the cylindrical hull. Both pistols clicked empty. “Qi!” he screamed again and charged forward just as the digger’s arms pressed up against the assault unit.

“Jake, stay back,” Qi yelled through the machine’s speakers. The cockpit opened as she pushed. She peeked out the top to avoid getting cut in half. Jake saw her close her eyes, raise her hand, and begin making short, swift motions with her fingers, and he could see her muttering something.

The free claw rose up, ready to crash down up her. Her eyes shot open and her hand stretched forth. She pointed at the machine leaning over her and yelled a single, incomprehensible word. A ball of flame shot forth from her finger and grew impossibly large in the short distance it took to travel from her hand to the assault unit.

Both machines were caught in the ensuing explosion, blowing Jake back with the force of the blast. From his back he watched the assault unit rise up into the air, rotate slowly away from the digger, up and over, to crash heavily on its back. Jake could see a melted, slag-edged hole about a foot in diameter in the cylindrical cockpit.

“Qi!” he screamed.

Jake knew the smell of charred flesh, and it filled the air. Miraculously, Qi was still alive and seemed to be unharmed. He tore his gaze away from the ravaged assault unit to focus on four men in black running between several stacks of crates toward the digger with upraised swords. One of them was well ahead of the others and angling straight for Qi.

“God damn it,” Jake muttered, realizing that he was out of options.

Website:                     http://www.quincyallen.com/

Facebook:                  https://www.facebook.com/Quincy.Allen.Author

Twitter:                      https://twitter.com/Quincy_J_Allen

Book purchase links:

Amazon:                    http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Ties-Book-War-Chronicles/dp/1614753350/

Kobo:                          https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/blood-ties-68

Nook:                         http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/blood-ties-quincy-j-allen/1122789262?ean=2940151072113

Smashwords:             http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/584817

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, November 23 – Interview With Will Hahn

Will Hahn is one of many authors I’ve had the privilege to meet through the Facebook group, Fantasy Sci-fi News Network. Among them, his writing stands out as especially crisp and refined. Will has been in love with heroic tales since age four, when his father read him the Lays of Ancient Rome and the Tales of King Arthur. He taught Ancient-Medieval History for years, but the line between this world and others has always been thin; the far reaches of fantasy, like the distant past, still bring him face to face with people like us, who have choices to make.

Will 6 web-FSFWill didn’t always make the right choices when he was young. Any stick or vaguely-sticklike object became a sword in his hands, to the great dismay of his five sisters. Everyone survived, in part by virtue of a rule forbidding him from handling umbrellas, ski poles, curtain rods and more.

Will has written about the Lands of Hope since his college days (which by now are also part of ancient history). His current epic is Judgement’s Tale; part one, Games of Chance, part two Strength of Conviction and part three, Reunion of Souls came out in 2014. Part four, Clash of Wills, was released on May 1, 2015.

I asked Will to give us a sense what Clash of Wills is about. He described it this way:

As the heavenly portents align, a mystic portal to the Hopeward opens again, letting a few goodly souls enter the prison where a comrade was marooned and evil beyond measure has laid a trap. For the heroes, it is not enough to uncover danger—wit and skill can carry them to its presence, but resolve and sacrifice are needed to defeat it. If it can be defeated. The challenge is often to choose one wrong over another, to accept the consequences when only the one prize most dear can be saved.

Treaman and his adventuring party discover just how quickly fame and fortune evaporate, once back in the clutches of the Percentalion; three miserable refugees of that chaos-cursed land will die unless the star-gazing preacher Alaetar can beat back the monsters at their heels.

And Solemn Judgement, the Man in Grey, faces an undead thane of ancient times; he must decide whether the only friends he has ever found will live, or if the Lands will again suffer the curse of Despair when facing the… Clash of Wills

Can you tell us a bit more about it?

In “Judgement’s Tale” the fate of the entire Lands of Hope falls into the path of a lone, determined orphan youth from beyond its borders. The liche Wolga Vrule has been plotting his escape for centuries, after which he will conquer the Percentalion,  Hope’s central kingdom. Vrule has an Earth Demon, Kog on his side, and has laid his traps with care. Solemn Judgement, on the other hand, is an orphan youth brought to this strange land by his father who died as they hit the shore. He studied long and hard without any guidance from his hosts; they took pains to hide his true power from him. Judgement simply wants to do the right thing by his friends, though this quest looked perilous from the start even in their ignorance of the true threat. But really, what chance could he have…

What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how did you overcome it?

In chronicling this tale, I came to realize that events happening many leagues away, involving another group of heroes, were actually part of the story. So I wrote them in and at first all was well. The last third of the book, however, covers events occurring in several distant places, all on the same night of the year (more precisely, the same thirty-six hour period). I found it very hard to arrange the chapters to my liking, but thanks to the wizardry of word processing I could shuffle them like cards until I found the order I wanted. It was hard work, but in the end very satisfying.

What other novels have you written?

The focus of my chronicles to date has been around the start of the Age of Adventure, which sages put somewhere between 1995-1996 ADR (the calendar of the Lands of Hope). That’s when the events of Judgement’s Tale take place, and the actions of Solemn Judgement among others cause the end of the Age of Emptiness preceding it. My other chronicles to date have looked at the years 2001 and 2002 ADR: the former in The Plane of Dreams and the latter in the Shards of Light series (of which I have two novellas written to date). I also have smaller tales available today (referring to events in the earlier days of legend), and a free Compendium of information about the Lands on my website for those who like to geek out on the details.

Do you have any other books in the works?

I have two immediate projects. The sequel to Judgement’s Tale which concludes the saga of the Percentalion is The Eye of Kog, and I am drafting on that like a madman. I also have begun the third book of the Shards of Light series, called Perilous Embraces, which is probably the toughest challenge I’ve had since I began to chronicle this world. Both are about halfway done, but the former is twice as long so it’s getting the attention right now.

Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?

Almost everything in the Alleged Real World is a threat, frankly. Time demands come from everywhere, the home-office is full of noise, and I am easily distracted.

But far and away the biggest danger is cats. We have five right now (I blame my lovely wife), and they take turns jumping in my lap. There are days at a stretch where nothing gets done. It’s an epic struggle, I assure you!

What is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing a novel?

Finding the time. That towers over every other consideration, and it comes down to lack of discipline (which I dress up with a lot of “trusting my muse” nonsense). If I peck away for five minutes, tops, I find myself writing rather smoothly at least 90% of the time and I’m in the groove. And what comes off the keyboard is pretty polished, in the right order, etc. most of that time. Very rarely—as recently with my WiP—do I hit a rough patch where the writing is really slow. It’s just that I don’t get back to it. But even at worst, the story sits and gels waiting for me to return. Put another way, it’s always on my mind.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I am a day-job dilettante, able to work from home on a flexible schedule which is a great blessing. I can crab all I want about slow progress on the chronicling, but that other job pays the bills. And since my daughter was home-schooled, the three of us have been together the whole time which is a great treasure. She’s off to college this fall, but still living at home! We stick with a winner around here.

Describe a typical day.

I’m up at 4:30 AM. Not because I’m an early riser, but because those darn cats will just start ripping furniture if they’re not fed. Then a quiet time until around 8, when I tackle the most urgent tasks at work and perhaps slip in some writing. The middle of the day is very choppy—homeschool is a misnomer, you need to drive all over for this lesson, that tutoring, etc. I also try to get up and walk around a bit so I don’t turn into that guy at the end of the evolution chart, the one marked “something went wrong”. In the evening, the ladies like to see reality shows and contests, while I sometimes sneak off to peck away some more. If I get my way, I go to bed absurdly early. But then I read.

I am the servant of a couple of cats and they have their own schedule as well. What motivates or inspires you, not necessarily as regards your writing?

It’s always been heroism that draws me. I don’t read the paper when some dope set a building on fire—I wait for the article a week later where they catch him. I love sports because the exertion and determination echoes heroic quality (and we all make heroes of sports stars, don’t we, and even movie stars). My taste in film, TV, and books all leans that way, and it was all I looked for when I studied history. Why stick your neck out? How many people against you is too many? What makes folks persevere (and how can I get me some of that)?

How do you pick yourself up in the face of adversity?

Simple, I compare to those around me. I live in a house with two cancer survivors. So the next time I fall behind on a project for work, or my shoulder hurts, or I wish I had enough money to buy something but don’t… it takes maybe three seconds to realize how good I’ve got it. The worst day always ends, and if my lovely wife and miracle daughter can do it, so can I.

Do you have any pet projects?

2015 is the Year of Local Presence for me. I have books coming out in paper now, thanks to my awesome publisher Katharina Gerlach. I toured the local library to give seminars, and there’s a book fair coming up. If I break in to the local papers or radio, I’ll consider it a true success (they’ve been hard!). Outside of that, I always have audiobooks to do (I love speaking the chronicles myself, and started on the second book in Shards of Light but need to get back to it). Not sure I can refer to the upcoming books in my mind (two novels and two novellas) as “projects”, more like “sentences”! But I’ll take my lumps like a man if I can just make progress.

I like to finish each interview with a Lightning Round. Please answer the following in as few words as possible:

My best friend would tell you I’m a … Cut-up. I hope!

The one thing I cannot do without is: My lovely wife Dorie. I would lock myself out of the house without her. Some days, she does it for me! But she always lets me back in later.

The one thing I would change about my life: I wouldn’t forget to apply for super-powers until it was evidently too late. I’d love to be like The Atom in the old DC comics.

My biggest peeve is: Anonymous bile. What’s the point of instantaneous communication if the only thing we do is blast-dehumanize anyone who disagrees with us?

The person/thing I’m most satisfied with is: My miracle daughter Genevieve Celeste, who encountered autism and leukemia and is at university now to study instrumental and vocal music performance. Boom, baby. That’s epic.

Thank you for spending time with us. I’ve been wanting to feature your work for some time now.

After the following excerpt from Clash of Wills, I’ll be providing social and book buy links for those who’d like to learn more about Will or purchase his work.

LoHI_JT_CoW_webAt the end of the pillared way, two stone arches stood on the left and right edges of the mesa, evidently leading to a drop and death in the chasm below. Between them, the rock floor rose several more steps to a dais twenty paces wide. There stood a tall robed being, in decayed dark robes bearing a scepter in his skeletal right hand.

His hood was back and the head was completely hairless. Not bald; the crown of his head looked as if it were no more a home for human hair than a marble bust. All his skin was dark and wizened beyond years, beyond parchment or wood; even the age-folds had flattened and died long ago. The eyes, as the three came closer, were strangely unremarkable, small and hard to see. In a moment, Cedrith realized they were only pupils, moving on stalks no longer covered with white vitreous jelly. Noseless, earless, lipless, the face was barely able to grin, which it did constantly. The teeth inside were small and horribly stained, but solid enough to clack with every movement of his jaw.

His frame was almost impossibly tall; standing on the dais he looked full seven feet high. The robes, richly decorated once with cloth-o-gold, seed pearls, silken swaths and hanging jewelry, had faded with the immense passage of time to look like soiled burlap. Under the bottom hem, the feet must still have been partially shod, but as he strode eagerly to the edge of the dais, the sound of his pace–a mixture of leather and bone and flesh–was horrible to hear. The scepter in his right hand was the only clean, undecayed facet of his entire appearance; black wood or iron with a flanged metal top, projecting wicked spikes to the outside while within an egg-sized gem reflected all the darkest hues of the rainbow.

He spoke, and both Cedrith and Natasha gasped at the shock of it; the sage fell to his knees and elbows, lashed with pain to hear a voice that should never speak. With desiccated lips, dried throat-chords, and just a nail-thin worm of a stump where his tongue should have been, the monstrous lord of evil yet spoke with perfect elocution, in powerful, dusty tones that reverberated as if they emanated from one side of him. It was all wrong, violently off, and Cedrith quietly murmured, begging him to stop with every word.

“You cannot imagine, I assure you, how very long I have awaited this moment. I am mortified–hah, yes! mortified indeed–not to have been able to come forward as would suit a proper host. But the rules, you see, are quite constraining. Still, you are here, at last, and destiny will be served. That is, indeed, the most important thing.”

Website: http://www.williamlhahn.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheLandsOfHope?ref=hl

You may purchase his books at:

Amazon http://www.amazon.com/William-L.-Hahn/e/B0057RBIO8/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Barnes & Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/will-hahn

Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WillHahn

The Write Stuff – Monday, November 9 – Interview With Josh Vogt

WordFire Press of Monument, Colorado has graciously allowed me to interview a number of its authors, many seasoned, some in the process of debuting their work. In the process, I’ve been learning that, with WordFire, “debut” does not necessarily mean “unseasoned.” In fact, this week’s featured debut author, Josh Vogt, is a publishing world veteran. He has been published in dozens of genre markets with work covering fantasy, science fiction, horror, humor, pulp, and more. He also writes for a wide variety of RPG developers such Paizo, Modiphius, and Privateer Press. His debut fantasy novel, Forge of Ashes, is a tie-in to the Pathfinder roleplaying game. WordFire Press has also launched his urban fantasy series, The Cleaners, with Enter the Janitor (2015) and The Maids of Wrath (2016). He’s a member of SFWA, the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers, and a Scribe Award finalist.

Josh-8194-2 - smallerI first met Josh in August at WorldCon in Spokane and found him to be at once engaging and intelligent, likeable to say the least. A quick glance inside his books reveals a brisk writing style and atypical, engaging characters. Also atypical of The Write Stuff’s usual line of suspects, Josh is releasing two debut novels this year. When I asked him to tell us a bit about each, he provided these two insights:

Forge of Ashes, Sword and sorcery (RPG tie-in):

A female dwarven barbarian returns home from war to discover her family in disgrace and her mother missing, presumed dead. Monsters, magic, and mayhem ensues as she risks all to fix the situation.

Enter the Janitor, Urban fantasy:

A janitor working for a supernatural sanitation company must track down a fledgling demigod before it’s corrupted or destroyed, all while training a rebellious new employee whose fluctuating power could trash an entire city.

Please tell us about this year’s releases.

I had quite an interesting debut year as an author, as I had two books come out in the same month from different publishers. As they were almost simultaneous, I treat them as my “collective debut.” Technically the most recent was Enter the Janitor, which launched during Denver Comic Con. It’s about janitors (and other sanitation workers) employed by a supernatural sanitation company that keeps the world clean and safe—be it from sewer monsters, magical muck, or trash golems.

What was the biggest challenge you faced writing Enter the Janitor and how did you overcome it?

Well, urban fantasy is a somewhat crowded genre these days. It can be hard to make a story stand out or seem unique. Aside from taking the idea of supernatural sanitation, I feel that by emphasizing the absurd humor, it can provide a fun, entertaining (and unique) experience for readers.

PZO8526Tell us a bit about Forge of Ashes.

This is my first media tie-in novel, based on the Pathfinder roleplaying game. Set in the fantasy world of Golarion, it features a female dwarf as the main character. She’s been away from home for a while and returns home to find a bit of a family disaster waiting for her—and with anger issues and an identity crisis already looming over her, she’s not best equipped to handle things in the healthiest manner.

What else are you working on?

Lots! I’ve currently got the second Cleaners novel in production and it should be out later this year. Then I’m getting into the draft of the third in the series. I’m also working on a Pathfinder novella, a possible middle grade scifi tale, and other RPG tie-ins. Plus a number of short stories and plenty of other novel ideas brewing. Oh, and I’m taking on a new job as a full-time editor for Paizo (the publisher of Pathfinder)!

Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?

It’s a job that requires you to be a little insane and obsessive in your persistence. It also involves a lot of sitting (though I try to work at a standing or treadmill desk to balance that out). Oh, and it can do terrible things to your finances and work/life balance…sometimes causing you to have none of either.

A number of my site’s visitors are aspiring authors. What can you tell them about your path to publication.

I had a moment of clarity in college where I realized I wanted to be a career writer and author. At that point, I launched into learning how to improve as a writer, researching how to get published, going to conventions, and connecting with other writers. I also started writing. A lot. And I started submitting stories, getting rejection letters, and trying to constantly improve.

Honestly, that all went on for several years before I made my first short story sale. I wrote during lunch breaks, in the evenings, over weekends…anything I could do to reach a professional level of writing. So just picture a “Cool Writing Montage” and let it play for a while. It’ll be far more entertaining and probably have a better soundtrack.

Eventually, I wrote Enter the Janitor, got an agent, and started shopping it around. It didn’t sell for a while, and the agent and I amicably parted ways for various reasons. But in the meantime, I’d also become a freelance copywriter, making a living solely off my writing. I got into freelancing for some RPG companies, connected with Paizo, and sold them a couple short stories. At that point, my editor, James Sutter, asked if I wanted to pitch a novel to them. And thus Forge of Ashes was born, becoming my first contracted novel. Enter the Janitor found a home with WordFire Press later that year, and things continue to evolve in exciting ways since then.

What is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing a novel?

For me, it’s finding the tone of the story and the character voices at the beginning. Once I’m about 10k words in, I usually hit it and it flows better from there. Then I have to go back and rework the beginning based on that.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

Since college, all of my jobs have been either publishing, journalism, editorial, copywriting, or freelance writing. Only the context has changed. I love being able to make a living from my passion.

You’re a fortunate man. Very few can make that claim. Can you tell us what a typical day is like?

There is no such thing.

What motivates or inspires you, not necessarily as regards your writing?

A belief in hope, and that people have inherent value. A love of exploration and the weird and the strange. And the constant desire to grow and learn new things.

How do you pick yourself up in the face of adversity?

I give myself time to recover, try to avoid beating myself up for getting knocked down (counter-productive, no?), and then remind myself what my real priorities are. Then I start working toward them again.

Before we take a peek at Enter the Janitor, let’s take a stab at a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

 My best friend would tell you I’m a… person with very good taste in books and video games.

The one thing I cannot do without is: My nervous system.

That would pose a problem.

The one thing I would change about my life: I’d start writing earlier and read even more widely.

I’d like to thank you for sharing your time with us and for the following sample of your work.

For those visitors who’d like to learn more about Josh, or are interested in reading more of his work, you’ll find social and book purchase links at the bottom of the page.

 

Enter the Janitor

UfG0VEcPKvjI8B2Q16bhu9lkvb0ohZTtvoTq2y-mQUMBen pushed his squeaky-wheeled cart out of the elevator and into the underground lot of HQ’s office complex. Dani walked by his side, her gaze darting to every dark corner as if checking for monsters.

They ambled between rows of identical white vans until they came across one which might’ve been white in a previous lifetime. Mud splatters, rust, and flaking paint covered the paneling, and it wouldn’t have looked out of place on someone’s front lawn alongside plastic flamingos and beer cans.

Dani stared at it in faint horror. “I thought we were supposed to maintain a clean image.”

He patted the side. “Mebbe all the rest like to waste time sprayin’ their vans down every time it gets a speck of dust on the bumper. Me? So long as it gets me where I gotta go, it’s all the fancy-shmancy wheels I need.”

“Still, shouldn’t you take better of your company car?” she asked. “I mean, that thing looks half-fossilized. What’s Francis’ ride? A white stretch limo?”

“When you reach his level, limos are beneath you,” Ben said. “So unless your new powers include teleportation, you’re gonna just have to enjoy the ride.”

She stood back as Ben slid the van’s side door open. It rattled aside to reveal built-in metal shelving that held all manner of buckets, cleaning fluid, bottles, extra mops, bundles of rags, and other cleaning paraphernalia. A regular janitorial treasure chest.

She perked up. “Got any gloves in there?”

He scrounged across one shelf until he came up with a pair of yellow rubber gloves and tossed them her way. As she tugged them on, he levered the cart into an open space at the back and locked the wheels in place.

“Why janitors?”

He glanced back. “Eh?”

“Why janitors?” Dani repeated. “If the Cleaners are some big magical society, why not act like it? Why hide behind this corporate front? Wouldn’t it be better to take on an image people respect more? Like law enforcement. Or superheroes.”

“First off, you really wanna go ’round wearin’ tights and capes? Or seein’ me in ’em?” He chuckled at her grimace. “Second off, if you think about it, janitors, maids, plumbers … all sortsa cleanin’ folks have been keepin’ the world from turnin’ into one big ball of mud since people started figurin’ out that sleepin’ in their own filth ain’t exactly the brightest idea. Mebbe politicians and military folk look like they’re the ones with all the say-so, but we’re the ones that keep things runnin’ from the ground up, whether they know it or not.”

“Still, isn’t it a little on the low end of the totem pole?”

“If you look hard enough, there’s plenty to be proud of.” He grinned. “You just gotta think like a janitor.”

“I wasn’t aware janitors did much thinking.”

“That sorta mindset is gonna get you in a lotta trouble.”

He rummaged around the shelves until he came up with a dusty-brown cleaning jumpsuit which zippered up the front, and a pair of black rubber boots. These he handed to Dani. “Get changed.”

She held the suit doubtfully. “These are way too big for me. And I am not changing clothes in a garage.”

“Fine. But that piece you’re wearin’ right now dissolves if taken outta HQ, so I guess you’re ridin’ shotgun nekkid.”

Her eyes narrowed. “You’re joking. I know you are.”

An engine started in the distance as they stared each other down.

At last, her glare turned pleading. “Please say you’re joking.” When he remained silent, she stalked around to the other side of the van, calling out, “You try to peek and I’ll break your nose.”

Ben waited as groans of disgust and shuffling evidenced her attempts to change without falling over. A squeak of surprise was followed by Dani running back around, now wearing a hot pink jumpsuit. She plucked at the waistband and arms, which were just loose enough to give her free range of motion. Otherwise it fit perfectly.

“What the … this thing shrunk! And changed color!”

“One size fits all ’round here.”

She craned her neck to study the outfit from all sides. “But why pink?”

“It switches to the wearer’s favorite color.”

“I don’t like pink.”

“Accordin’ to the suit, you like it a lot.”

“How do I change it?”

He briefly shut his eyes. When he opened them again, his dusty blue jumpsuit had turned forest green. “Just a mental command. ’Course if you get too distracted or knocked unconscious, it’ll revert back. Pink’s nothin’ to be ashamed of.”

 

Website:                              JRVogt.com

Facebook                           https://www.facebook.com/JRVogt

Twitter:                               @JRVogt

You’ll find Josh’s books at:

http://www.amazon.com/Enter-Janitor-The-Cleaners-Volume/dp/1614753180/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1431709208&sr=8-1

and

http://www.amazon.com/Pathfinder-Tales-Forge-Josh-Vogt/dp/1601257430/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1431707452&sr=8-1&keywords=forge+of+ashes

 

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, October 26 – Interview With Peter J Wacks

Peter Wacks headshotToday, I have the pleasure of featuring WordFire Press’s managing editor and best-selling author, Peter J. Wacks. I was introduced to Peter earlier this year during Portland, Oregon’s Rose City Comic Con and have since learned he is truly a multi-faceted individual. His graphic novel, “Behind These Eyes”, which he co-scripted with Guy Anthony de Marco and Chaz Kemp, was nominated in 2013 for the Bram Stoker Award®. His first two novels, Second Paradigm, a sci-fi mystery thriller, and Bloodletting, an epic fantasy and Part 1 of the Affinities Cycle, which he co-authored with Mark Ryan, were both released earlier this year. In addition to his publishing endeavors, he created the international bestselling Cyberpunk CCG (Collectable Card Game), and has also been an actor and a TV producer.

coverOn or about November 15 of this year, WordFire Press expects to release Peter’s steampunk adventure, The Dandy Boys Mysteries, which WFP describes as follows:

The Vengeance universe, originally published in the Penny Dread Tales, begins here with a young Friedrich Von Helsing, who will eventually grow to fight the supernatural alongside the mysterious Brotherhood.

In the stylings of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein and Jonathan Polidori’s The Vampyre, this Victorian adventure follows Friedrich and his band of four friends, as these five young scholars debunk the supernatural in 1839. What starts as an innocuous set of adventures studying conmen, mages, Romani curses, and mad scientists leads them down a dark path to true occult.

 

Peter, before I will give our visitors a taste of Dandy Boys, I’d like to spend some time showcasing you as a writer. Would you please tell us something about your earlier work?

 My proudest novel was Second Paradigm. It was the first novel I published, and though it is the oldest example of my work, I accomplished something with it that I’m not sure I could duplicate these days. With Second Paradigm I created a story that can be read in any order, and still delivers Build Up, Conflict, Resolution, in order. The story itself is a time travel story, which did make it easier to lay out a nonlinear plot.

You’ve piqued my curiosity. Time travel is a difficult subject. Would you care to discuss some of the awards you have won?

I have been lucky enough to find my work nominated for a couple awards. The two big nominations were “Behind These Eyes”, a horror graphic novel which was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award, and Interface Zero 2.0 a gaming setting which was nominated for an Enny. I also wrote a preface for the 2015 Writers of the Future anthology which was turned into a short film. An interesting side note: Second Paradigm, which I mentioned before, landed me a guest speaking appearance with a chapter of Mensa – since no one before me had broken Aristotelian plotting with true nonlinear “reorganizable” storytelling.

Do you have any other books in the works?

Right now is a very exciting time. I just coauthored a novella with Kevin J. Anderson for the TV show Heroes Reborn (which I love!) I have two series on the way from Baen Books: one a multi book joint world alt-history/fantasy with Eytan Kollin, Walter Hunt, Eric Flint, and Kevin J. Anderson, the other an Urban Fantasy about an everyday P.I. who gets caught in a world of the supernatural. I have 4 other titles in various stages of shopping/signing, but I don’t want to get to far into those until I have more details on the releases.

Very exciting indeed! What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Intense. I prefer to go at a slower pace, but stick at it for a solid 8 hours, if not more. I do this 7 days a week, unless I have conventions or other appearances-at which point I get as much time as I can in.

Do you create an outline before you write?

I do both. Sometimes I outline, sometimes I pants (fly by the seat of my pants.) It really depends on how busy I am when I think of the story. If I have a bunch of other stuff on my plate, I’ll outline just so I can save the idea. (I have 227 draft outlines for books in my “to do” folder.

That’s great! Then we’ll be hearing from you for some time to come. I’d like to delve a little deeper, if I may. I’ll start by asking why do you write?

I know it may be cliché but I can’t not write. The people around me notice that the longer I go without writing the more of a grumpy jerk I become. It is just how I am wired.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

That is a rough question. I know that I care a LOT more about digging into every layer of my characters than I did 10 years ago. They have become friends in a way that they didn’t used to be, even if I think they are jerks. I think a larger part of evolution though is that I have gained confidence. There are people out there impacted by my stories, even if I don’t have the notoriety of a headliner author, and that gives me confidence that the sacrifices of following a creative life (like I have a lot of choice – I don’t think there is anything else in the world I want to do) are worth it.

As for your “other” life, do you have another job outside of writing?

 I do not. But I do. My “day job” is as the managing editor of a publishing house, so when I’m not writing… I’m still reading and analyzing story. The oddity in my life is that my writing actually pays most of my bills; and my “day job” is something I do because I love the people I work with and find it rewarding.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

I’m a single Dad and it is one of the most rewarding pieces of my life. My kiddo doesn’t feel like she comes from a broken home, she has adopted the attitude that she is luckier than most kids because she has 3 parents that love her. But – the only piece of my life as “big” as being a writer, to me, is being the best Dad I can.

If you don’t find this next question too intrusive, what do you consider your biggest failure?

Friendships. I am so busy with writing and being a dad that I rarely have social time to check in on my friends. I feel like I fail those around me by not being available, but they still stick around, being amazing people and checking in on me to make sure I haven’t been sitting in front of the keyboard, glassy eyed, without eating for the last 36 hours. And then they feed me when they discover that, in fact, I have been.

Thank you for sharing your time with us and thank for your candor. Obviously, your readers learn something about you from your work, but your responses here reveal much more about your humanity—something I believe is essential for creating a strong reader/writer bond.

 As we close, before I provide a sample from The Dandy Boys Mysteries and provide links to where our visitors can follow you and purchase your books, I’d like to close with a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m a …                               Workaholic.

The one thing I cannot do without is:                                Unwind time with my daughter.

The one thing I would change about my life:                 The number of hours in the day. We need to move the planet a bit, get up to a nice 36 hour day.

Hah! My sentiment exactly. My biggest peeve is:         Having to sleep.

The person/thing I’m most satisfied with is:                  My kiddo. She is the awesome.

For those of you who have stayed with us to the end—and how could you not have? Great responses, Peter—here is the excerpt you have been waiting for:

Journal One
The Gypsy Curse

Entry One

 

In April of 1838, Cambridge University issued advanced degrees to several individuals of note. This was done in recognition of the completion of their studies and exemplary performance, as well as their keen insights and application thereof to the problems thus presented by the world.

The honorarium was attended at the newly founded Thomas Graham House headquarters of the Royal Society of London, located on the outskirts of Cambridge. Though Graham had been a fellow for only two years, great things were expected of him as a chemist who more than rigorously applied the Socratic Method to his studies.

Among these so laureled were the founding members of The Fellowship of Adventurer Scholars for the Revelation of Mythology and the Advancement of Natural Philosophy. The Fellowship was a bold venture, one which would cast aside such methods which found men of science cloistered in musty rooms, and would instead embolden its Fellows to embrace the very Spirit of Discovery.

Musty rooms could, as some had said, only contribute to the knowledge and study of musty rooms, while the world beckoned from outside the windows, enticing the inquiring mind to dissect and study its many wonders.

While the Fellowship did aspire to become a branch of the Royal Society, it was by no means intentioned to be constrained by the guiding vision of those notable gentlemen; rather, it sought to show that the empirical methods of these great explorers of the mind were better suited for examinations of the natural world.

Founded, as it was, by those more … youthful in nature, The Fellowship embraced travel and exploration. The body of the Fellowship of Adventurer Scholars consisted of Niles Byron, the eldest son to Lord George Gordon Byron; Dominic William Weyland, the youngest son of the noted industrialist Thomas Weyland; William Owen Wilson of the Oxford Wilsons; Rufus Emmerson, whose father had acquired a small fortune as the principle financier of the Weyland Industrial Consortium; and Friedrich Von Helsing, of house Helsing, who was himself second in line to a small barony in northern Germany.

Each of these men were of the highest caliber, as defined by the mind if not by blood, and disciplined with their time and intellect, bringing both to bear on the problems that so willfully accosted the good men and women of The Emperor’s.

While the exact nature of their introduction is unknown, it is common knowledge that these gentlemen shared several interests and associations while attending the King’s College, and that they could often be found in each other’s company. Despite their disparate social statuses, their shared intellectual and literary interests led them to engage in regular symposiums of the true Greek fashion.

In addition to such shared interests, the disciplines which these men mastered contributed greatly to their collective venture, as if the fates themselves had guided their interests toward that which would best accommodate their quest for truth in a darkened world; but perhaps even their philosophies at this time were not sufficient to dream of all the things in heaven and earth. Though the world may be a stage, and the Adventurer Scholars were but players, the ideas they pursued were, to them, the very parchment and ink with which the great playwright scribbled the tragedy of the world.

Niles Byron had, at that time, received his degree in matters of the Law. The discipline which was intended to prepare him for the affairs of his estate had instead provided the Fellowship with the ability to deftly maneuver the many difficulties of the world’s changing political spheres. It also allowed them a certain ease of passage through customs points, for in a world of imperial rule, the force of law could compel compliance more swiftly then could a blade, just as the badge of citizenship could defend better than any shield. And were one to find themselves in such a place as rejected these authorities, then the quick wit of the esquire could be called upon to lubricate the most insurmountable of obstructions.

Simultaneously, the title of Medical Doctorate, which had been bestowed upon both Rufus and Wilson, granted the coterie many tangible investigative insights, as well a certain degree of universal social acceptance. For who does not value the man who can heal all ailments and address even the sicknesses of the soul? Having two such fine exemplars of the field in their company could only further the prestige of the Fellowship and contribute to their study of the human phenomena which so captivated their interest.

It was the analytics and theoretics of Natural Philosophy—obtained by both Weyland and Helsing—which rounded out the group’s skills and provided a firm methodology for what followed.

If you’re looking to follow Peter, you may do so here:

 Facebook:      www.facebook.com/PJWacks

Twitter:          www.twitter.com/peterjwacks

Website:         www.peterjwacks.net/

 Buy Links:     www.wordfirepress.com

www.amazon.com/Dandy-Boys-Mysteries-Vengeance-Book-ebook/dp/B014WWE5SE

The Write Stuff – Monday, October 12 – Interview With Nancy Kress

I was introduced to Nancy Kress by my previous guest, Mike Resnick, this past August at the WorldCon book launch party that WordFire Press was throwing for his newest release. The guestroom where the party occurred was growing increasingly crowded as Mike led me through the throng of partygoers toward an attractive brunette seated on a couch against one of the walls. When he told her about my interview series, she smiled and immediately gave her email address to this stranger standing before her, assuring me she would be delighted to participate. I could see I was interrupting her conversation with the woman seated next to her, so I thanked her as best I could and made myself scarce. To this day, I wish I had had a better opportunity to get to know her. This then, is your chance and mine to acquaint ourselves with one of the all-time masters of sci-fi and fantasy.

Nancy KressNancy Kress is the author of thirty-three books, including twenty-six novels, four collections of short stories, and three books on writing. Her work has won six Nebulas, two Hugos, a Sturgeon, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for the novel Probability Space. She often writes about genetic engineering and is perhaps best known for the Sleepless trilogy, beginning with Beggars In Spain, a complex look at the intersection of genetic engineering and national economics. Most recent works are the Nebula-winning Yesterday’s Kin (Tachyon, 2014) and Best Of Nancy Kress (Subterranean, September, 2015). Her work has been translated into more than two dozen languages, including Spanish, French, German, Croatian, Danish, Hebrew, and Klingon.

In addition to writing, Kress often teaches at various venues around the country and abroad; in 2008 she was the Picador visiting lecturer at the University of Leipzig. Currently, every summer she teaches Taos Toolbox, a two-week intensive writing workshop, with Walter Jon Williams.

She describes her most recent release, Best Of Nancy Kress, this way:

This collection holds twenty-one stories, written over nearly forty years and representing the best of Nancy Kress’s fiction. Three of these stories have won the Nebula, the Hugo, or both, and another four were nominees. They include time travel (“And Wild For To Hold”), hard SF (“Shiva in Shadow,” “Margin of Error”), alien planets (“Flowers of Aulit Prison,” “My Mother, Dancing”), trenchant satire (“People Like Us”), near-future extrapolation of current technology (“Someone to Watch Over Me”), explorations of social movements (“Beggars in Spain”), and unclassifiable (“Grant Us This Day”). The gorgeous cover, representing Anne Boleyn in “And Wild For To Hold,” is by Tom Canty.

The stories were chosen by Kress herself, who says: “The stories in this book try to do different things. Some, such as ‘People Like Us,’ are predominately idea stories. Some, like ‘Laws of Survival,’ are mostly interested in what a character would do in an impossible situation. Some, like ‘Unto the Daughters,’ were written because I enjoyed writing the voice. At least one, ‘Casey’s Empire,’ is a comment on writing science fiction: why, how, and at what cost one may become an SF writer. I picked the stories that are my personal favorites.”

The Best Of Nancy Kress received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly, which called it a “sparkling and thoughtful collection…Kress has a gift for focusing on the familiar and the personal, even in the most alien settings.”

Nancy, thank you so much for agreeing to honor us with your presence. You’ve been writing for nearly forty years and have almost one book still in print for each of them. In addition to your many Hugo and Nebula award-winning science fiction novels and novellas, you’ve written numerous short story collections so I am compelled to ask, how do you keep your writing fresh?

Writing evolves. My first three novels were fantasy, the first heavily influenced by Peter Beagle (a fact mentioned by every single reviewer of the book). Then I moved on to more traditional fantasy, before deciding I’d like to write a science fiction book. I did some thrillers, some space opera, and, increasingly, hard SF based on emerging science. The disadvantage of this is that, unlike some other genre writers, I have not built a “brand” with a coterie of faithful followers sure that they will like the next book because they liked the last one. The advantage is that it does keep writing fresh to always be trying something new. And, of course, with hard SF, there is always new science to draw on.

I enjoy Beagle’s writing, as well. Many writers specialize in either non-fiction or fiction. Some choose to write almost exclusively novels or short stories. I, for one, feel I need novel-length works to develop my themes, yet you seem to thrive in virtually every writing environment there is, including non-fiction. While many of your books are for adults, your 2013 novel Flash Point targets a YA audience, something that requires an entirely different mindset. I don’t mean to sound disparaging—far from it—you’ve earned my greatest respect. Nonetheless, I have to ask how is this possible?

I think some writers are natural novelists; some are more effective at shorter lengths. I’ve experimented with all of them, and my conclusions are two: First, my favorite length for science fiction is the novella. It is long enough to develop an alternate world but short enough that only one plot line is needed, which lets the writer drive that one on through for maximum punch. Second, I think I am a better writer at short lengths than at novel lengths. All my awards except one are for short fiction. As for Young Adult books—Flash Point was also an experiment, but not one I will repeat. I didn’t really understand fourteen-year-olds when I was one, and the teenage culture now is not something I think I can successfully appeal to.

Many of your works delve into areas that require great technical expertise, for example genetic engineering and artificial intelligence. Yet, as far as I can tell, before your writing exploded, you transitioned from being an educator to working in advertising. What do you read to develop the knowledge base required for your books?

I wish I had a scientific education! Had I known when I was young that I would turn into an SF writer, I would have chosen differently. Instead, I hold a Masters in English. To write about genetic engineering, I research on-line, attend lectures, and pester actual scientists with questions. My best friend is a doctor; she goes over my work to check that I have not said anything egregiously moronic.

A career such as yours has many turning points, some striven for, others that blind-side the recipient for better or for worse. Would you care to provide two or three of the more pivotal moments?

The first turning point for me came with the writing of the novella “Beggars in Spain,” which won both the Hugo and the Nebula and which would never have been written without a jolt from writer Bruce Sterling. At a critique workshop we both attended, he pointed out that my story was weak because the society I’d created had no believable economic underpinnings. He said this colorfully and at length. After licking my wounds for a few weeks, I thought, “Damn it, he’s right!” In the next thing I wrote, “Beggars in Spain,” I seriously tried to address economic issues: Who controls the resources? What finances are behind what ventures? Why? With what success? My story about people not needing to sleep, which I’d actually been trying to compose for years, finally came alive.

Another big turning point for me was deciding to make my two biothrillers, Oaths And Miracles and Stinger, as realistic as possible. That meant a lot of scientific research. My reward was having both scientists and FBI agents tell me, “I believed every word you wrote.” Very satisfying.

Would you be good enough to describe your path to publication?

I began with three short-story sales to SF magazines. That convinced an agent to look at my first novel, without making any promises of representation. But she liked the book, and so she took me on.

What are you working on now?

I’m writing an SF series based on my novella “Yesterday’s Kin,” which won the 2014 Nebula. Aliens come to Earth—but they are not as alien as we think, and they bring both great tech and bad news. When I finished the novella, I felt that the immediate story was done but not the greater implications. A three-book series will come out from Tor over the next few years.

Best-NKressOn September 30 of this year, Subterranean Press is releasing The Best Of Nancy Kress, a collection of twenty-one stories written over thirty-five years. I’m really pleased about this.

If there is such a thing, describe a typical day.

I am a morning writer. I wake up early (very early, and it’s getting worse as I get older), drink coffee while puttering around for an hour or so, and then write. If fiction doesn’t get written by noon, it doesn’t get written. In the afternoon, after a walk with my husband and the dog, I do research, email, edit student manuscripts if I am teaching just then, social media—all the non-writing things that go with being a full-time writer. Evenings that we are home, I read. Of course, all this changes with the of actual life. But that’s the basic template.

I’m no stranger to rising early to write. I understand the morning routine very well. Would you care to share something about your home life?

I live in Seattle with my husband, writer Jack Skillingstead, and Cosette, the world’s most spoiled toy poodle. I’ve been here in Seattle for six years now, having moved from upstate New York to marry Jack, and I love the city. It’s beautiful, temperate in climate (unlike Buffalo, where I grew up), and culturally rich. Also, there is a large SF community here.

What inspires you, not necessarily as pertains to your writing?

Narrative and science both inspire me. I get the narrative from books, movies, and some TV. I love movies and go often. The science I must seek out. In addition, I play a fair amount of chess, but I can’t say that inspires me because, alas, I’m not very good at it. When I was younger, I didn’t think you could really enjoy something you were bad at. Turns out I was wrong.

Which authors do you enjoy—sci-fi and otherwise—and why?

My favorite author is Jane Austen: not an intuitive choice for an SF writer. But her satire on how humans behave is just as fresh, funny, and true today as it was during the Regency. Out of genre, favorites include Somerset Maugham, Anne Tyler, Philippa Gregory, Karen Joy Fowler. In SF and fantasy, a diverse group: Ursula LeGuin, Bruce Sterling, Connie Willis, George Martin’s Game Of Thrones, Daryl Gregory, Fred Pohl. Some new, some old.

I always conclude my interviews with what I call a Lightning Round, since the responses often yield unexpected insights. In as few words as possible, please complete the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m… Over-organized, always wanting to know “what is the plan?”

The person I’m most proud of is… My two children.

The one thing I cannot do without is… Coffee.

The one thing I would do over is… You don’t really expect me to answer that in public in any significant way, do you?

Hah! No. I guess I don’t. The thing that always makes me laugh, right down to my gut, is… My husband. He has a wonderful dry sense of humor. My two children.

Nancy, thanks once again for joining us, most especially for your thoughtful replies. (I also need to find a copy of one of your works in Klingon. What an item that would be!)

Those dropping in for a peek can learn more about this wonderful author via these links:

Website:         www.nancykress.com

Twitter:          @nancykress

Facebook:      https://www.facebook.com/nancy.kress.9

You may purchase her books here on Amazon:               http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_0_11?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=nancy+kress&sprefix=Nancy+Kress%2Caps%2C206

Or through her Amazon author page:       http://www.amazon.com/Nancy-Kress/e/B000AQ4SK2/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1444280027&sr=1-2-ent

The Write Stuff – Monday, September 28 – Interview With Mike Resnick

This week’s guest, Mike Resnick, is one of science fiction’s undisputed titans. He’s won 5 Hugo awards and holds the record for 37 nominations. He’s won a Nebula Award, 10 HOmer Awards with 24 nominations, as well as too many other US and foreign awards to mention here. Wikipedia credits him with 66 novels—Mike claims 76 and he can prove it— and 26 short story collections. He has edited 41 anthologies, written 10 non-fiction books and 261 pieces of short fiction. He wrote the plot for “The Fiend from the Forgotten City,” a 1974 Conan the Barbarian comic, and with his wife, Carol Resnick, has co-edited Resnick’s Library of Worldwide Adventure: 5 non-fiction collections of travel tales from various authors. That series was preceded by 9 books in Resnick’s Library of African Adventure that he edited on his own. If all this wasn’t enough, he’s sold a short story collection to Russia, edited an anthology for Italy, has sold 8 short fiction pieces abroad, and 8 novellas as stand-alone novels overseas, all in addition to what I’ve noted above. And the list keeps growing.

Mike at 2012 Writers of the Future ContestI had the pleasure to meet Mike Resnick—he’ll tell you right away “Mister” is some other guy—this past August, in Spokane, Washington at the WordFire Press WorldCon book launch party for the re-release of his novel, The Outpost, first published in 2001 by Tor Books. I’m not sure what I expected, perhaps an unapproachable celebrity, but to my delight I discovered that Mike is an all-around nice guy. He’s warm, generous and immediately welcoming, not the least bit distant. When I told him about The Write Stuff, and asked if I could feature him, to my surprise and accruing respect, not to mention gratitude, he immediately agreed. After telling me how he’d like to introduce me to his daughter, the award-winning sci-fi author, Laura Resnick, for an interview, he looked across the room and said, “There’s Nancy Kress. Come. Let me introduce you to her.”

Mike, Despite your monumental legacy, I am emphatically not going to ask the tired, old question: where do your stories come from? All authors know that the stories choose us. Instead, as one of many who have produced only a handful of works, I am compelled to ask, how do you keep your writing fresh?

I think the true answer to that is that I simply love writing. I suppose the more acceptable answer is that I alternate serious fiction with humorous fiction with non-fiction, and that two or three times during a novel I’ll take a few nights off (my typical working day is 10:00 PM to 5:00 AM, when no one rings the phone or knocks on the door) and write a short story, then go back to the novel totally refreshed.

I think it’s a given that heroes are often not as either legend or society portrays them. The Outpost’s premise suggests that, when modesty does not prevail, they may not even be as heroic as they perceive themselves. Why is this?

If you didn’t see them perform their heroic deeds, there’s every likelihood that they were exaggerating or fantasizing. And most people who are capable of one or two acts of daredevil heroism are not capable of constantly repeating those acts. Which is okay. I’d rather read about Conan or the Gray Lensman than live next door to them.

As our visitors will see, by the excerpt at the end of our conversation, The Outpost is a tongue-in-cheek yarn and dry humor pervades it. Other writers might have chosen scathing criticism in telling the same tale. You obviously believe wit and irony are more effective tools. Why so?

Probably because I don’t hate or resent the heroes of our space operas, nor am I contemptuous of them. I find them kind of endearing, symbols of my long-ago youth. And because I am both fond of them and totally disbelieve most of what they’re supposedly capable of, I find humor is the best way to deal with them. (My bibliographer tells me that I’ve sold something like 130 humorous stories, more even than my late friend Bob Sheckley, who was the king of all SF humorists.)

A career such as yours has many turning points, some striven for, others that blind-side the recipient. Would you care to provide two or three of the more pivotal ones?

Santiago was my first national and international bestseller; it’s the book that put me on the map. Kirinyaga has picked up 67 major and minor awards and nominations to date, and enhanced my prestige in every country I sell to (29 at last count). “Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge” has won more awards all over the world – here, Spain, Japan, Croatia, France – than anything else I’ve written, and just sold to its 24th market.

You certainly deserve the wide-spread recognition.

I’d like to look back to the time before you began writing sci-fi. Most of your followers are unaware of your early writing career. A friend of yours, whom I met at WorldCon, whose name I am embarrassed to say I do not remember, said he knew you back in those old Chicago days and told me about some of your earliest writing efforts: “adult” novels. How did you make the break from those into more serious work?

A lot of us served our apprenticeships in the “adult” field—me, Bob Silverberg, Barry Malzberg, maybe a dozen other science fiction writers, a couple of mystery Grandmasters (Laurence Block and Donald E. Westlake)—a bunch more. It was a place where you could make a lot of money while you were learning how to write.

There came a time, 200+ four-day novels into my career, that I decided if I wrote one more 96-hour novel or one more 6-hour screenplay, my brain would turn to putty and run out my ears. We were breeding and exhibiting collies at the time—we had 23 champions between 1968 and 1982, almost all of them named after science fiction books or characters—and I figured, well, if Carol and I can take care of a dozen or so happy, healthy collies and I can still grind out this multitude of books, maybe we should invest in a kennel. Clearly it was the one other thing we could do without re-training. So we spent a year looking all over the country, and finally bought the nation’s second-biggest luxury boarding and grooming kennel in Cincinnati. We bought it in 1976, hired and trained a staff of 20, and by 1980 it was practically running itself, and I began writing what I wanted to write, and at a reasonable speed. (Well, reasonable for me or Silverberg or Malzberg; fast for anyone who hadn’t come out of the same field.)

When the writing out-earned the kennel five years in a row, we sold the kennel in 1993, but elected to remain in Cincinnati.

Now that should amaze some of our visitors.

My wife, Toni, acts as the first set of eyes for my books, so I was pleased to learn that your own wife, writer Carol Resnick, who co-authored two of your movie scripts, has contributed to many of yours. Would you care to expand on her contributions?

She was Carol Cain until we married in 1961; she’s been Carol Resnick ever since, and that’s the only name she uses. The only writing she’s signed her name to is a couple of screenplays we co-authored. She’s also co-edited a line of true-adventure reprints with me.

I discuss every idea with her before I sit down to write, and she’s my first reader and my line editor. When she says it’s ready to go, it sells 100% of the time.

If there is such a thing, describe a typical day.

I wake up at about 3:00 in the afternoon, go downstairs to my office (the house was built to our specs back in 1986; 4000 square feet, but with only two bedrooms…plus two libraries, a large office, and a greenhouse). I check my e-mail, answer what has to be answered immediately, and then, somewhere between 4:30 and 6:00 PM we drive out to one of our usual restaurants for dinner (well, it’s a dinner menu, but it’s my breakfast). We come home, watch the news (which we’ve recorded while we were out), I do any editing or proofreading I have to do, and I read submissions to Galaxy’s Edge, which I edit. I check e-mail again—I do a lot of business overseas, and they’re just waking up and getting to their offices between 8:00 PM and midnight here. About 10:00 PM I’ll sit down and start writing. Usually I’ll take a break about 1:00 AM, and as often as not we’ll drive out to Applebee’s or IHOP or similar for a snack. Back by 2:00, and write til just about sunrise. I go to bed about 6:00, read my Nook for maybe an hour, and then go to sleep until midafternoon the next day. I know it doesn’t sound wildly exciting, but it is wildly satisfying.

What inspires you, not necessarily as pertains to your writing?

Helping new writers, collaborating with them to get them into print, buying from them for my anthologies and/or for Galaxy’s Edge. Over the years I’ve “adopted” maybe 20 of them. (Maureen McHugh calls them “Mike’s Writer Children”.) I should add, with fatherly pride, that my real child, Laura, has won awards in romance, travel writing, and science fiction (the Campbell) and probably outsells me these days.

Which authors do you enjoy, sci-fi and otherwise?

In science fiction: C. L. Moore, Bob Sheckley, and Barry Malzberg are probably my three personal favorite. Elsewhere: Damon Runyon, Joe Heller, Nikos Kazantzakis, Raymond Chandler, Ross H. Spencer, Sara Gruen, Steven Suskin, a bunch more.

I always conclude my interviews with what I call a Lightning Round, since the responses often yield unexpected insights. Before I share an excerpt from The Outpost, in as few words as possible, please complete the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m… dependable.

The person I’m most proud of is… Laura.

The one thing I cannot do without is… Carol.

The one thing I would do over is… watch my blood sugar. (I went blind in one eye back in 2003 due to diabetes. I see just fine with just my left eye, but I’d like to know I had a spare in case I needed it.)

The thing that always makes me laugh, right down to my gut, is… listening to self-important fools pontificate at conventions or workshops.

That response makes me laugh! Thank you so much for sharing your time with us. I’ve been an avid follower for years and I suspect more than a few of today’s visitors are as well.

 At the bottom of this page, right after this excerpt, visitors will find a few links to Mike’s books and website.

 From The Outpost

The OutpostNow, you people don’t know me, so you don’t know that I ain’t much given to exaggeration, but take my word for it: the Dragon Queen was the most beautiful female I had ever seen in a lifetime of admiring female critters of almost every race and species.

Her hair shone like spun gold. Her eyes were the blue of the clearest lagoon. Her lips were a brilliant red, and moist as all get-out. And one look told me that if she was a typical Dragon Queen, then Dragon Queens made Pirate Queens look like schoolgirls from the neck down.

She’d been poured into a skin-tight metallic dress. She had breasts that just out-and-out defied gravity, and the tiniest waist, and smooth, silken thighs, and I tried real hard not to pay much attention to the fact that she was toting even more weapons than I tended to carry myself.

“Have you got a stiff neck?” she asked after a couple of moments in a voice that was a little bit harsher than I expected from someone that beautiful.

Well, that wasn’t quite where I was stiff, if you catch my delicate and subtle meaning, but I assured her that my neck was just fine.

“Then look at my face,” she commanded.

I did so, and suddenly spotted something I’d missed the first time around, which was that she was wearing a golden tiara, and smack-dab in the middle of it was the biggest, most perfect ruby I’d ever seen.

“Miss Dragon Queen, ma’am,” I said, “I hope it don’t embarrass you, but I have to declare that you are unquestionably the most beautiful woman I have seen in all my wanderings across the length and breadth of the galaxy, to say nothing of its height and depth.”

“You may call me Zenobia,” she said, and now her voice was more like a purr than a snarl.

That didn’t surprise me none, because I’d met eleven Pirate Queens in my day, and eight of them were called Zenobia, and I figured that if you were an exquisitely-built young woman possessed of unbridled lust and an overwhelming desire to conquer the galaxy, Zenobia was the name that just naturally appealed to you.

“It’s a name fit for a Dragon Queen,” I assured her.

She stared at me through half-lowered eyelids. “You interest me, Catastrophe Baker,” she said. Suddenly she snapped to attention, which produced an effect most men would pay good money to see. “But first, to business. You stole thirty pounds of my plutonium. I want it back.”

“What does a pretty little thing like you need with enough plutonium to blow up half dozen star systems?” I asked.

She smiled. “I plan to blow up half a dozen star systems,” she said.

“Just for the hell of it?” I asked, because you never knew what Pirate Queens might do when they felt irritable, and I figured Dragon Queens weren’t much different.

“There are six warlords out here on the Rim. As my first step in the conquest of the galaxy, I plan to assimilate their empires.”

“Well, why didn’t you say so in the first place?” I said. “Hell, assimilating empires is something I’ve always had a hankering to do. I think we should become partners.”

“You’re hardly in a position to make demands!” she snapped.

I held up my hands. “You mean these things?” I asked, indicating the manacles. “I just let them put ’em on me so I could meet you. There ain’t never been a chain that could hold Catastrophe Baker.”

And so saying, I flexed my muscles and gave one mighty yank, and the manacles came apart. Four or five of her bodyguards—did I forget to tell you she had a small army of bodyguards?—jumped me, but I just leaned down, straightened up, and sent ’em flying in all directions.

She stared at me, wide-eyed, and I could tell that she was torn between yelling “Off with his head!” and “Off with his clothes!”

“I may have even more uses for you than I thought at first glance,” she said at last.

“Then we’re partners?”

“Why not?” she said with a shrug that went a lot farther and lasted a lot longer than your standard shrug.

“Well, if we’re partners,” I continued, “I’d sure be interested in knowing why you’re a Dragon Queen rather than a Pirate Queen.”

“And so you shall, Catastrophe Baker,” she said, walking over and taking me by the hand. She smelled good enough to eat. “Come with me.”

 

Website:         www.mikeresnick.com

You may join his Listserv through his website.

Facebook:                              https://www.facebook.com/mike.resnick1

Amazon POD & ebook buy links:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_12

B&N POD & ebook buy links:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Mike+Resnick?_requestid=168160

The Write Stuff – Monday, September 14 – Interview With Anne Hillerman

This week, I am pleased to feature a talented creator of both non-fiction and fiction works alike. In theory, I could have met Anne on several occasions while I lived in Santa Fe, but fate conspired against it. Whether I marked the date of a book signing incorrectly or weather made the roads impassable, we never connected and I’ve been the poorer for it. I have met a few of her friends, even interviewed one—Lisa Lenard-Cook—this past January. And while each one attests to Anne’s open personality, I’ve only had the pleasure of her acquaintance through social media. In addition to her non-fiction works, she has chosen to continue in her revered father’s footsteps.

anne_fogelbergAnne Hillerman is the author of the New York Times best-selling Spider Woman’s Daughter and Rock with Wings. Her stories continue the popular Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee mysteries series created by her father, Tony Hillerman. She is currently at work on the third book, again featuring officer Bernadette Maneulito as a crime solver. Anne’s novels have been honored with the Spur from Western Writers of America and the New Mexico-Arizona book award for best mystery and best book of the year. Before writing fiction, Anne wrote several non-fiction books including Tony Hillerman’s Landscape: On the Road with Chee and Leaphorn.

Anne is a founding director of the Tony Hillerman Writers Conference held annually in Santa Fe. She began her writing career as a newspaper reporter, and continues in journalism as restaurant critic for the Albuquerque Journal. A New Mexican since the age of three, she lives and works in Santa Fe with her husband, photographer Don Strel.

This is how she describes Rock With Wings:

Navajo Tribal cops Jim Chee and Bernadette Manuelito, and their mentor, the legendary Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, investigate two perplexing cases in this exciting Southwestern mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Spider Woman’s Daughter.

Doing a good deed for a relative offers the perfect opportunity for Sergeant Jim Chee and his wife, Officer Bernie Manuelito, to get away from the daily grind of police work. But two cases will call them back from their short vacation and separate them—one near Shiprock, and the other at iconic Monument Valley.

Chee follows a series of seemingly random and cryptic clues that lead to a missing woman, a coldblooded thug, and a mysterious mound of dirt and rocks that could be a gravesite. Bernie has her hands full managing the fallout from a drug bust gone wrong, uncovering the origins of a fire in the middle of nowhere, and looking into an ambitious solar energy development with long-ranging consequences for Navajo land.

Under the guidance of their mentor, retired Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, Bernie and Chee will navigate unexpected obstacles and confront the greatest challenge yet to their skills, commitment, and courage.

Please tell us more about it.

This new mystery featuring Bernadette Manuelito, Jim Chee, and their mentor, Lt. Joe Leaphorn, is set in Monument Valley and the country near the little Navajo town of Ship Rock, N.M. The book is structured as two parallel stories with separate crimes taking Chee and Bernie in different directions. Among the elements included are movie making, a mysterious car fire, a tight-lipped suspect with a trunk full of dirt and a questionable grave that might or might not be just a movie prop.

This newest release, as well as Spider Woman’s Daughter, which preceded it, continue a thread begun by your father. What was the biggest challenge you faced following in his footsteps and how did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge was and still is living up to the expectations of the fans Tony Hillerman’s work garnered during his 30 years of writing the Navajo mystery series. He created and brought to life  Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee. Many have enjoyed Dad’s books through several re-readings and I knew they had high standards for anyone who would presume to continue these stories.

I overcame my hesitation by writing the best books I possibly could. Because Dad had never used Bernadette Manuelito as a crime solver, and because he had gradually been developing her into a more major character, I decided that telling the stories from her point of view would give me a way to continue the mysteries while giving the series a new voice.

Please list your other works for our visitors.

Spider Woman’s Daughter (novel) and Tony Hillerman’s Landscape (non-fiction), both published by HarperCollins.  Ride the Wind  USA to Africa  (Rio Grande Publishing) about a ballooning adventure.  I also two wrote two non-fiction books Gardens of Santa Fe and Santa Fe Flavors, both published by GibbsSmith Publishers and unfortunately out of print. I also wrote several travel guides, now outdated, and a book of solar energy projects for children.

Have there been any awards, productions, videos or anything else of interest associated with either of your recent novels?

Yes, Spider Woman’s Daughter was honored with the Spur Award and the New Mexico Book Award.  Tony Hillerman’s Landscape was honored with the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association Award. The Library of Congress created a video of me speaking there last summer for the National Book Festival.  Here’s a video interview in connection with the release of Rock with Wings: http://reportfromsantafe.com/episodes/view/304/anne-hillerman-author-rock-with-wings/

What are you working on now and do you have an ETA for its release?

I am at work on the third novel in the new series, not yet named. My deadline for manuscript submission is January, 2016. Wish me luck!

I do! I’m pushing back an identical deadline to March, so I understand the pressure you face. That aside, do you find there are occupational hazards to being a novelist as opposed being to a non-fiction writer?

No, but I have been surprised at the popularity of my new series, and am very thankful to my Dad’s fans. As a nonfiction writer, I was happy but basically unknown. With fiction,  I’m getting the opportunity to balance my need for quiet time to write with my need to be a promoter and respond to generous invitations to come and talk about my Dad and my books. It’s different!

Tell us about your new series’s path to publication.

My non-fiction book about Tony Hillerman and the places he loved came out almost a year to the day after my father died. During the book tour for that book, so many people told me they missed the characters and asked if Dad had another unpublished manuscript to continue the saga. He didn’t, but I realized that I missed the characters my father created as much or even more than his fans. So, I figured I would try writing one and see what happened. After I got my mother’s blessing, I contacted Dad’s long-time editor at Harpercollins to see if there might be any legal problems, copyright issues, etc. with my writing a novel using Dad’s characters. She said no, and added that she’d be glad to take a look at whatever I came up with. I wrote the book, she looked at it, liked it, gave me a bunch of good ideas on how to make it better, and offered me a contract for two books. Then, because of the wonderful fan response, Harpercollins offered me a three book contract following the publication of Spider Woman’s Daughter. I’m now at work on the first book of that package.

In the publishing world, it’s nice to have some security. Do you have another job outside of writing?

Yes, I am the co-founder of the Tony Hillerman Writers’ Conference, held each November in Santa Fe http://wordharvest.com/hillerman-writers-conference/  I serve on the boards of Western Writers of America and New Mexico Press Women. I’m also a wife, mom, sister and niece.

What motivates or inspires you?

A road trip, especially to somewhere in our expansive southwest, always inspires me. I love live music from opera to bluegrass.  I enjoy working in the garden where you can see things change and grow.

How do you pick yourself up in the face of adversity?

Sleep usually helps along with prayer and a conversation with a friend. A brisk walk or a sweaty trip to the gym are good, too.

Who has been your greatest inspiration?

My Dad and my Mom inspired me with their passion for good books and good writing and their enormous kindness and generosity. I miss them every day, but I am grateful for the lessons they taught me.

Thank you for spending time with us. Before we read a sample from Rock With Wings, with your permission I’d like to try a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please complete the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m a… complicated person.

The one thing I cannot do without is: space.

The one thing I would change about my life: A few more years with my parents.

My biggest peeve is: People who criticize a book without reading it.

Boy! Do I know that one, but I’ll save it for another time. Instead, let’s enjoy the following excerpt from Rock with Wings (P 274).

harpercollins-rockOfficer Bernadette Manuelito has been assigned to give a talk to the Farmington Rotary.

Bernie parked in the restaurant lot, noticing that it was nearly full. She picked up her backpack, double-checking to make sure her notes were there. She put on a bit of lipstick, squared her shoulders, and walked in to the room where the meeting would be. She felt as almost as unsettled as when she’d met Chee’s relatives for the first time.

The sixty-something woman at the door in the gray business suit introduced herself as the program director and the person Bernie had talked to on the phone. “We’re so glad you could join us. You’re younger than I expected. Have you met our president?”

“No, ma’am.” Younger than expected? That didn’t sound like a good thing….

(The excerpt picks up with Bernie’s talk.)

“Ladies and gentlemen,  yá’át’ééh. Good afternoon. Thank you for inviting me here today. And for the free lunch.” A few of the attendees chuckled. Good.

“This is the first time I’ve been asked to speak on behalf of our department.” She looked up from her notes. “I thought I would start by explaining that if you want to be on patrol with the Navajo Nation police, you have to enjoy driving. Each officer who works on our force is responsible for about seventy square miles of reservation land. That’s about twice the area of Grand Rapid, Michigan. Or think of it this way: the whole country of Liechtenstein is only sixty- two square miles.”

People in the audience smiled. She relaxed a little, looked at her notes for the next point she wanted to make, and kept talking. “In the rest of rural America, there are about three officers for a thousand civilians. Out here, when our department is fully staffed, there might be two of us for that same population. But I’m not complaining. I love my job, and I like to stay busy.”

For those who would like to read more of her work, you can find Anne’s books at:

http://www.collectedworksbookstore.com/anne-hillerman

To keep up with Anne online:

Website:          http://www.annehillerman.com

Facebook:        https://www.facebook.com/anne.hillerman